When Hatred Masquerades as Love

When hatred is the real motive and it assumes a mask of love, it is an incredible evil. perhaps the most evil of all evils.  ‘We’re doing this out of love’ is far too often Satan’s own word.

Be very wary of any claim of love that originates in the ground of hatred.  Satan is at work there.

Godlessness Produces Fear

And the punishment of the godless is nicely described in Lev 26:36-

The sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues.

Fear as punishment.  Fear as an abiding unrelenting condition is divine punishment for the godless.

You show me someone who is constantly afraid and I’ll show you someone utterly godless.

America

‘America is a Christian nation’ is just a lie. It’s always been a lie, because nations can’t be practitioners of religion, only people can be.

There are, however, a lot of fake Christians in this country, but only a tiny tiny minority are actually Christians.

Quote of the Year

With many, many thanks to Jon *The Calvinator* Balserak for reminding me of it-

‘God, whenever he wills to make way for his providence, bends and turns people’s wills even in external things; nor are they so free to choose that God’s will does not rule over their freedom. Whether you will or not, daily experience compels you to realize that your mind is guided by God’s prompting rather than by your own freedom to choose.’  Calvin-  Inst- 2.4.7.

Here’s the whole source, for you purists-

Ego vero dico, sufficienter iis probari quod contendo, Deum, quoties viam facere vult suae providentiae, etiam in rebus externis hominum voluntates flectere et versare, nec ita esse liberam ipsorum electionem, quin eius libertati Dei arbitrium dominetur. Velis nolis, animum tuum a motione Dei potius quam ab electionis tuae libertate pendere, haec quotidiana experientia iudicium et mens saepe deficit: in rebus factu non arduis, animus flaccescit: rursum in rebus obscurissimis, expeditum statim offertur consilium: in magnis et periculosis, animus omni difficultate superior suppetit.

It’s True

I’ve noticed that when people say “So-and-So” is a better preacher, they almost always mean the enjoyable delivery of the messenger, not the doctrinal fidelity of the message. – Michael Svigel

‘All You Need is Love’ – Idolatry

If the commonly uttered notion that ‘all you need is love’ were true, then God’s amazing love for all the world would surely suffice.

But though God is love, love is not, I repeat, is not god.

‘All you need is love’ is idolatry because it replaces God with an attribute of God.  It slices God into bits and makes one bit the only bit.

The real aim and purpose of suggesting that love is all you need is to replace God with personal sentimentality.  And it is idolatry.

On Those Who Aspire to Power

The aspirants to power can never bear the presence of virtue. For, being guilty of evil themselves, they are necessarily bitter against the virtue of others.  — John Calvin

Calvin is right- those who aspire to power despise virtue because in their quest for power they abandon it, do any evil they deem necessary, and sin.  This goes for every politician in this country and every mega church pastor and every person who wishes to dictate terms of life to others.  They will do whatever they can to achieve their goal.

Rick Warren is The SBC’s Own Joel Osteen

His absurd self congratulatory Christ de-centering pat on his own back during the SBC Annual Meeting this week exposes the truth about him that some of us have known from the beginning:  he is, has been, and always will be a Joel Osteen-esque charlatan.

Hank Walker remarks on the Facebook (and I agree with him completely):

I am still cringing at what I witnessed in Rick Warren’s hubris-filled speech. Upon historical reflection, I suspect that his pragmatic approach and nickels-n-noses scorekeeping will eventually wither upon critical examination – if not on earth, in the courts of heaven! Maybe SBC churches will eventually realize that consumer-focused, hide-the-fact-that-you’re-Baptist marketing has had myriad unintended consequences. As churches have sought to emulate Warren’s “Purpose-Driven” methods, they have lost their Gospel-Centered way. When pragmatism usurps biblical authority, should we be surprised that many of us are now questioning what a “pastor” even is?! May God forgive us collectively for making “Saddleback-Sam” type seekers the central focus of our churches, and may we return to the old paths of exegetical preaching and regenerate, covenant membership. 

Christ WILL build his Church; He doesn’t need our man-centered methods to do it! ~Soli Deo Gloria

“For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved — but only as through fire.” ‭‭~1 Corinthians‬ ‭3:11-15‬ ‭

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.” ~Revelation 3:17-19

Ken Paxton May Think Children Being Slaughtered is ‘God’s Plan’…

But we know that the only one responsible was the evil shooter.  God no more planned for those kids to be killed than he planned for any other human act of evil.  In fact, God wishes you people would stop shooting each other to bits.  That’s God’s plan.

Don’t attribute to God that which is the choice and decision of an evil man.  And, Ken Paxton, never speak of God again.  You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

And I say that as an actual theologian and biblical scholar.

Exegesis v. Eisegesis

Exegesis- relating what Paul et al actually said from the basis of their own cultural context.

Eisegesis- relating what Paul et al said in a way that makes you comfortable with their words in your own cultural context.

90% of what passes for exegesis these days is just eisegesis.

Dogmatik

Dogmatics embodies the nature of Christian faith and reflects the truth content and meaning of the Christian understanding of God and world. Important issues in Christian dogmatics include: the clarity of the terminology used, links to biblical and church traditions, and connections to experience and thought in the contemporary life world. 6th, updated and corrected edition.

A lovely review copy arrived in the mail some time back.  Visit this link for the table of contents, and a good bit of the front matter which can be downloaded freely.

This is the 6th edition of this Dogmatic.  And the foreword to it begins delightfully-

Wenn ein Buch in der 6. Auflage erscheint und dabei in der Substanz gleich geblieben ist, sollte man erwarten dürfen, dass im Lauf der Zeit alle Druckfehler eliminiert wurden. Aber bei der erneuten gründlichen Durchsicht eines solchen Buches entdecken Leser und Autor doch fast immer neue, meist kleine Fehler und Verbesserungsmöglichkeiten, die bisher verborgen geblieben waren. So auch diesmal, wobei Frau S. Scherer, Herr K. Decker und Herr H. J. Schliep sich diesmal um die Aufspürung und Eliminierung von solchen Fehlern verdient gemacht haben. Dafür danke ich ihnen auch an dieser Stelle herzlich.

You would indeed imagine that after 6 editions, and all the reviews, proofings, etc., all infelicities would be removed.  Ah, perfection; such an elusive goal.  And never, it seems, to be achieved in this world.

The very fact that this book as been revised 6 times, though, speaks to its abiding relevance and importance.  And the span of time which this volume has occupied is also testament to its powerful and insightful construction.  First published in 1994 as that year ended and 1995 commenced, and being reissued here with minor adjustments from the 5th edition in 2022, means that it has been in use continuously for 28 years.  Few theological texts designed for classroom use can make that claim.

And this is the ideal textbook for a course in Dogmatics.  It’s more compact than Brunner’s 3 volumes and its more up to date too.  Not to mention, of course, the advantages it has over Barth’s monstrosity (which could never seriously be used as a text for a course in Dogmatics these days).

H. begins with Dogmatics as a Wissenschaft and then in the first major division looks at the part Dogmatics plays in reconstructing the essence of the Christian Faith.  The second part then gives itself to the description of Christianity’s understanding of its own essential truths.  These include its understanding of God and the world.  Here the doctrines explicated are Theology, Christology, Pneumatology, The Trinity, Creation, Sin, Salvation, and of course, finally, Eschatology.

I wasn’t able to find many reviews of this behemoth (sadly- I think it should have received much wider scholarly attention than it did in 1996, the year after its publication).  But ThLZ 1996, nr. 7. has a very enlightening look at the work by Dietz Lange.  His conclusion?

Alles in allem: H.s Dogmatik ist ein Buch, das man Studenten zum Einstieg ins Fach wie auch zur Examensvorbereitung ebenso empfehlen kann wie Pfarrern und Religionslehrern zur Vertiefung und Weiterbildung – also genau für die Zwecke, für die der Autor sie geschrieben hat (IX).

The quibbles of the review aside, this is both a fair and a judicious assessment.  This book, especially in its most recent incarnation, really is highly recommendable to students and Pastors and instructors of Religious Studies.  The very people for whom H. wrote it.  If you’re a student, a pastor, or a religious studies instructor, or you are just an interested someone who wishes to deepen your understanding of Christian theology, this is a tremendous place to start.

And then you can move on to Brunner and Pannenberg and Barth.

Covenant: A Vital Element of Reformed Theology

Covenant: A Vital Element of Reformed Theology provides a multi-disciplinary reflection on the theme of the covenant, from historical, biblical-theological and systematic-theological perspectives. The interaction between exegesis and dogmatics in the volume reveals the potential and relevance of this biblical motif. It proves to be vital in building bridges between God’s revelation in the past and the actual question of how to live with him today.

I had the privilege of reading the essays contained in this book at an earlier stage of their composition and so this will serve more as a note of appreciation for the authors of these works and the editors of this volume than as a review of it all.

It blends nicely the chief approaches used in academic theological circles to the question of the ‘covenant’.  The link above provides the table of contents and some of the book’s freely available materials.  I am particularly appreciative of the editor’s introduction, which states in clear terms exactly what the book is about and how it is set up.

This volume presents different perspectives on the covenant, which will be accounted for in this introduction. Still, there is a clear thread. The motif of the covenant highlights God’s faithfulness towards his people, which is actualized in each generation. The biblical theme of covenant is a dynamic concept, apt to be shaped in different ways in the times of the Old and New Testaments, renewing the fundamental relationship of God with his people in continually changing circumstances. The Reformed tradition has always sensed the importance and relevance of this theme, as it typically underlines God’s gracious allegiance towards people who do not merit being his partners. Nevertheless, this concept has not received equal attention in every phase of the Reformed tradition.

I suppose that it’s fair to insist that the least that can be said of the volume is that it achieves its purpose.  Much more, of course, can be said of it.  But at least it does what it tells readers it’s going to do.

After rehearsing the history of the question, the editors duly observe

To conclude, there are enough reasons today to reconsider the theme of the covenant, from the perspectives of linguistic studies, of Ancient Near East sources, of historical research of federal theology, and of recent biblical theological publications.

So it starts.  The theme of ‘covenant’ is reconsidered from a variety of perspectives.

There are a number of places where the volume soars.  Pierrick Hildebrand’s efforts to explicate the theology of Bullinger are super.  But they should be since Bullinger’s theology is well known to Hildebrand.  Similarly throughout, the contributors are very well acquainted with the subjects they explore.  And none of them are like American Politicians who were chosen to say something just because they have name recognition and not because they have expertise.  Experts are assembled here.

The volume also soars in Covenant Theology as Trinitarian Theology: A Discussion of the Contributions of Michael S. Horton, Scott W. Hahn, and N.T. Wright, by the bold and clear-eyed Arnold Huijgen.  In evaluating Wright’s work, Huijigen observes

Wright does not keep Israel and eschatology together: for the church of the present day, eschatology remains instead of Israel. Israel, the previous act of the play, plays a subordinate role, in memory.

And too politely

N.T. Wright provides a historical picture, although his five act hermeneutic leads to an underestimation of Israel, and possibly of the authoritative nature of the text.

And of all three of the authors he evaluates, he closes thusly:

All in all, earlier criticisms of Reformed covenant theology can be countered by biblical resourcing and thoroughly trinitarian theology. Thus, covenant theology need not be speculative, bourgeois or a replacement theology that eclipses Israel. Rather, covenant theology as trinitarian theology stays close to the authoritative biblical history, is eschatological in nature, in ongoing solidarity and unity with Israel.

Speculative, bourgeois, and supercessionist.  That sums it up pretty well.

This is a very enjoyable (in an academic sense, not in the sense of a Marvel film) book.  If they ever made it into a movie I can’t imagine very many people enjoying it.  But that’s because people generally go to movies to escape, not to think.  This book will make you think.  Read and enjoy.

That Monster, the ‘Biblical Critic’

THAT MONSTER, THE HIGHER CRITIC

Is the Biblical critic a dangerous, devouring beast?  A good many think so: at least a good many have an impression to that effect, which is a quite different thing from thinking. Nevertheless, impressions often carry people farther than intelligent opinions; and just because a mere impression, in seven cases out of ten, is untruthful, and because it cannot give a rational account of itself, and therefore does the more mischief,—it needs to be dealt with.  —  Marvin R. Vincent, That Monster, the Higher Critic (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1894).

That’s the opening paragraph of a delightful little booklet from 1894 which defends biblical criticism as a necessity for a proper understanding of the text.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s the ideal antidote for your Fundamentalist friends.

‘On the other hand, there are schismatics…’

Luther, after describing those who have a legitimate calling to ministry, writes

On the other hand, there are the schismatic spirits. They have no calling to the ministry, and they would do well to stay home in the corner. Instead, they push themselves in everywhere and try to be the only ones that shine, with everyone listening to them and watching them.

All they really want is to be famous, and they preach only so long as they have a following and need fear no danger.

But just make them stand up like real preachers, who have been commissioned for the ministry and keep on shining in public without letting wind and weather frighten or silence or extinguish them. Then they would soon make themselves scarce, and you would not find anyone at home.

So the dear office of the ministry must get it from both sides. Either those who should perform it neglect it, or those who have not been commissioned for it want to perform it.

He Is Not Wrong

Theology 101: Maybe I’ve spent too much time in 19th century theology, but it seems to me that the evangelical obsession with masculinity, femininity, egalitarianism, complementarianism, conservatism, progressivism, and sexuality feels like a decidedly anthropocentric turn. – Michael Svigel

Nope, not wrong at all.

When Calvin thinks Your Thinking is Substandard…

Only let it be understood, that the image of God which is beheld or made conspicuous by these external marks, is spiritual. For Osiander (whose writings exhibit a perverse ingenuity in futile devices), extending the image of God indiscriminately as well to the body as to the soul, confounds heaven with earth. He says, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, placed their image in man, because, even though Adam had stood entire, Christ would still have become man.

Thus, according to him, the body which was destined for Christ was a model and type of that corporeal figure which was then formed. But where does he find that Christ is an image of the Spirit? I admit, indeed, that in the person of the Mediator, the glory of the whole Godhead is displayed: but how can the eternal Word, who in order precedes the Spirit, be called his image?

In short, the distinction between the Son and the Spirit is destroyed when the former is represented as the image of the latter. Moreover, I should like to know in what respect Christ in the flesh in which he was clothed resembles the Holy Spirit, and by what marks, or lineaments, the likeness is expressed. –  Calvin

Modern Christian Piety

In most instances it’s impossible to distinguish between Christian piety and pop psychology today; so little of Christian piety is actually Christian.  Or even pious.