Thursday, April 28, 2016

Always Reforming, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Troublesome times are here

I read quite a few Baptist blog posts. I'm interested in what contemporary Baptists are saying. Sometimes I comment and engage in discussion.

A troublesome trend manifests in frequent spouting of suppositions void of biblical reference or groundwork. There may be vague references to "what the Bible says about [cue topic]" -- but usually without any mention of what the Bible actually says. This protects the turtle commentator in his or her shell. With no specific scriptures used, the context and meaning cannot be discussed -- just take their word that what they say is right. Not content with this runaround tactic, those who actually bring up what the Bible actually says are chided for proof-texting. The scriptures they present are derided as "popcorn passages" (i.e., taken out of context; apparently this is the latest cool lingo for "proof-texting").

Recently a Baptist bunch discussed whether is it okay for Christians to pulls pranks on people. What is the clear moral standard for these things? Is there a line we cannot or should not cross? Rather than good biblical discussion and advice, the thread was filled with "I thinks" and joking around, with only two commenters seeming to suggest the Scriptures should actually be consulted! Another discussion found a member of the "Oracle of Delphi church" admonishing folks that scriptures must be taken in context -- while never providing any contextual discussion on the scriptures presented and never presenting any scriptures for contextual discussion! Such is subterfuge and misdirection.

Don't accept this. Let's discuss the Bible. It is our sole rule of faith and practice!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oracles and Interpretation

Writing When Women Ruled the World from the Oracle of Delphi, Wade Burleson audaciously asserts, "Portions of the Bible can only be understood when one has a working knowledge of ancient Greece and the importance and influence of women at the Oracle of Delphi."

After referencing history of the the Oracle of Delphi, the assertion focuses particularly on the incident recorded in Acts 16:16-18, with Burleson adding, "The only way you can understand why Paul did what he did is to realize the biblical description of this young girl." He goes on to write, "The English versions of the Bible say she had "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The literal Greek word used to describe this woman is Pythia. She could have served in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, or she could have been a lesser oracle. What we do know is she had the spirit of divination." Rather than reveal some particularly pithy perception, Burleson concludes that what we do know is exactly what the English Bibles tell us -- that she had the spirit of divination!

I do not point to this to focus on Wade Burleson's exegesis and interpretation of this text (though I think he possibly falls for a root fallacy here); but rather to focus on the grand need to study what the Bible says rather than interpret it based on "inaccessible" extraneous material. If we doggedly believe that "portions of the Bible can only be understood when [cue the hermeneutical soup of the day]," then we must maintain the corollary that those to whom this material is inaccessible cannot possibly understand the Bible, or are at the least seriously defective in their attempt. On the other hand, Paul indicates that in the inspired text itself we have sufficient matter for all our doctrine, our reproof, our instruction in righteousness. Let's learn to think this way rather than think about the need to access some obscure bit of history by which to interpret the Bible. We are a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom that needs mystical priests to mediate God's word to those of us who don't know the Oracles of Delphi!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Proof-texting: pushing back

proof text: a Scriptural passage adduced as proof for a theological doctrine, belief, or principle (Merriam-Webster Online)

Sometimes verses of the Bible are misused as proof of something they do not prove. On the other hand, "proof-texting" has become a new "whipping-boy" for those who do not want to discuss the Scriptures specifically. Though Merriam-Webster defines "proof text" in neutral terms, most Christians have come to use it negatively. Zack Hunt claims, "Proof-texting is an intentionally deceptive practice that offers out of context proof while ignoring the greater witness of scripture..." Grant Osborne (The Hermeneutical Spiral) describes proof-texting as "that process whereby a person ‘proves’ a doctrine or practice merely by alluding to a text without considering its original inspired meaning." Another writes, "Proof-texting is when you start with a point you want to prove and then cherry-pick verses to support the point, regardless of the context and original meaning of those verses." If we accept these kinds of definitions, then proof-texting becomes an unredeemably bad thing. But is it?

Proof-texting can be a problem
The classic humorous proof-texting tale is as follows: 
John was dissatisfied with the way things were going in his life. He decided to consult the Bible for guidance. John closed his eyes and flipped the Bible open, touching a finger to a spot on the page. He opened his eyes and read the verse under his finger, Matthew 27:5: "Then Judas went and hanged himself." Thinking these words seemed unhelpful, John randomly selected another verse using the same process, finding Luke 10:37: "Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." Desperate, he tried again. This time he found John 13:27: "Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly."
The above caricature aside, proof-texting actually comes in both positive and negative forms. Yes, taking random verses out of context is a bad thing -- whether as life guidance or doctrinal "proof texts". We've all no doubt been guilty of it at times. Let us repent and seek to study the Bible in toto and in context. We should not embrace all that comes under the umbrella of "proof-texting". We should not dismiss the legitimate criticisms. But...

Proof-texting has a place
R. M. Allen and S. R. Swain wisely call for a more judicious approach, writing, "All of the charges brought against the use of proof-texts in Christian theology could be lodged against the Bible’s own use of the Bible." ("In Defense of Proof-texting," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 54, No. 3, 589-606) For example, "With respect to the first charge: 2 Cor 6:16-18 cites and/or alludes to a litany of OT passages (including Lev 26:12; Isa 52:11; 2 Sam 7:14) in support of the claim that “we are the temple of the living God,” but gives no indication of the distinct literary and historical contexts within which those passages are found."

Allen and Swain advise us to "not commit the fallacy of confusing a method of citation with a hermeneutical procedure. Indeed, if there is an immediate lesson to be drawn, it is this: proof-texting (as a citation technique) has biblical precedent and therefore should not be too hastily dismissed." Amen.

Serious debate, not caricature
Someone memorably said, "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." But that really isn't what a true proof text is. It is a caricature of the basic meaning. All of scripture matters. Exegete and expound on each verse/statement in its context; understand and show how various scriptures are connected; listen to others who introduce scriptures that might give an alternate meaning; refine your views in light of all the Bible. But...

Don't ever discredit the use of Scripture as "proof texts". Don't chide people who produce texts of Scriptures to back up their doctrine and theology. We must first present texts so we know where we're coming from, and then we have a basis to discuss what these Scripture texts teach. Absent bringing the Scriptures into the equation we are tossed to and fro, adrift to be carried about with every wind of doctrine.

Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

*    You may run across dicta probanta as a theological term meaning "proof text".
**  The common and combative way of referencing proof texts is inequitable and insufficient. Be sure you realize the following, and do not be bullied into submission -- many objections to "proof-texting" come from those who do not hold the Scriptures as authoritative and therefore really disagree with the theology taught in the "proof text" more than they disagree with "proof-texting". It is a form of misdirection.
*** Proof texts are properly used as a form of shorthand. They are not intended as the last word on a topic, but as a beginning. This kind of use of proof texts can be seen in confessions of faith that point to texts believed to support the individual points made. See, for example, the First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1644/1646.
In this divine and infinite Being there is the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; each having the whole divine Essence, yet the Essence undivided; all infinite without any beginning, therefore but one God; who is not to be divided in nature, and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties.
1 Cor. 1:3; John 1:1, 15:26, Exod. 3:14; 1 Cor. 8:6

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Two links of interest

Not that I altogether agree with these, interesting nevertheless. 

  • Ancient letters reveal Bible bombshell --"In other words, these texts show parts of the Old Testament — including the Books of Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea, and parts of Genesis and Deuteronomy—could have been written earlier than previously thought. 

Not at all surprising to some of us, and clearly not all scholarship has held to Bible to be at late as these folks assume. They are confounded by presuppositional evolutionary thinking. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Too Warlike? and other music links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, April 22, 2016

This Flag

Americans seem to stand ever at the ready for a good controversy over "the" Confederate flag (and other Confederate memorabilia). Statues honoring Southern soldiers and statesmen have recently been on the chopping block.[1] Into this atmosphere steps Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He is proposing to the Southern Baptist Convention a Resolution on the Elimination of the Confederate Flag from Public Life. If it makes it out of committee the resolution will be presented for vote to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in June in St. Louis, Missouri. The resolution calls the Confederate Battle Flag a "controversial and necessarily divisive symbol of racism conveyed by [its] ongoing public display" and asks "all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and work diligently to remove vestigial symbols of racism..."

Tempers flared over the discussion of the resolution at SBC Voices, with one commenter suggesting that any discussion or questioning of the resolution should not be taking place. It is hard to progress along these lines when any "non-pc" comment will be labeled as racism (not that there never is racial reasoning, but that any perceived misstep is automatically so labeled). It is clear that some people do not want an honest and open discussion, but simple acquiesence to the obligatory socially acceptable groupthink. If history proves anything, it proves that the division of the Northern and Southern United States does not quite fit the simplistic framework imposed on it by revisionists. There is discussion to be had.

When speaking of offense by and/or banning the Confederate flag, the "Southern Cross" is usually what is meant -- seen in either the square Army of Northern Virginia or rectangular Army of Tennessee flags.[2]

Liberty for all
As an American citizen I hate to see "scorched-earth" campaigns driven by the perpetually offended.[3] They will be neither satisfied nor pacified, regardless of how many victories they win. No matter how many statues and flags come down, no matter how many graves are moved. Though some mistakenly think otherwise, in the United States you do not always have the right to not be offended! I stand for the liberty and rights of those Americans who wish to fly the Confederate flag. While some are doubtless relieved by the removal of certain symbols, it is questionable to what extent that combats real racism.

Give none offense
This flag does not offend me. It is part of my ancestral heritage. Both of these admissions will quickly get one labeled a racist if said in the wrong audience. I stand for the right of those who wish to fly the Confederate flag. But just because you have a right to fly it, does not mean you should. I will not dictate what others do; I do not want dictate what others do in this matter. As for me, I choose as both a Christian duty and courtesy to not display a flag that I know offends my Christian brothers and sisters.[4] Should it offend them? I don't know. Does it offend them? Yes. Why would I let a regional, political and cultural symbol take precedence my Christian responsibility to another? Aren’t all Christians brothers and sisters, and ultimately citizens of a more important spiritual and heavenly kingdom? Jesus said we should seek first the kingdom of God -- a kingdom not of this world. Surely for a Christian that should take precedence over an earthly kingdom that God has raised up and torn down. Paul wrote, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32)."

Pass over a transgression
Solomon advised, "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression (Proverbs 19:11)." Commenting on that verse and another Tim Challies wrote, "We are not required by God to confront a person every time he or she offends us." It is a glory to pass over the perceived transgressions of others. We can choose to not count one offenses against them, turn the other cheek where seeking our rights are concerned, and as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it.

Christians who see nothing wrong with the Confederate flag can offer kindness towards those who are offended by it. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it. In that atmosphere we can make both Christian and racial progress. IF brethren would do as the Lord says, the one offending and the one offended would meet in the way, each going to the other to do the right thing.

[1] A few Baptists have chafed that the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gave Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore a prized oil painting of John Broadus (a seminary founder and supporter of the Confederate cause) -- which now adorns Moore's office in Washington, D.C.
[2] Sometimes wrongly identified as the Stars and Bars.
[3] A general statement not directed at Pastor McKissick.
[4] I will display it for historical or educational purposes, such as posting it here to signify which flag is under discussion.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. 
Acts 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. 
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 
1 Corinthians 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. 
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 
1 Thessalonians 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

Thursday, April 21, 2016