Saturday, December 30, 2006

John Calvin's Sermons on Job #1

I recently required a facsimile edition of the 1574 English translation of John Calvin's Sermons on Job. This means that everything is spelled really silly-like, so I have "translated" the old-style English into modern spelling. I left the weird words and Yoda-like word order as it was, though. But if you're used to reading the Puritans and what-not, then this should be no problem. I have added paragraph summaries of my own devising in italics. Anyway, I thought that I would gradually post my slow progress (this is going to take a while). And so, here is sermon number 1.

The first Sermon upon the first Chapter.

There was in the land of Hus a man named Job, sound and upright, fearing God, and withdrawing himself from evil.

(There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Job 1:1, ESV)


God disposes of us as He will according to his own good pleasure, which though we may not understand it, we know he is just and righteous.

The better to profit ourselves by that which is contained in this present book, first and foremost it behooves us to understand the sum of it. For the story here written, shows us how we be in God’s hand, and that it lies in Him to determine of our life, and to dispose of the same according to His good pleasure: and that it is our duty to submit ourselves unto Him with all humbleness and obedience: and that it is good reason, that we should be wholly His, both to live and die: and specially that when it pleases Him to lay His hand upon us, although we perceive not for what cause He does it, yet we should glorify Him continually, acknowledging Him to be just and upright, and not to grudge against Him, nor fall to striving with Him, assuring ourselves that we shall always be vanquished in pleading against Him. So then, the thing that we have briefly to bear in mind in this story, is, that God has such a sovereignty over His creatures, as He may dispose of them at His pleasure: and that when He shows any rigor which we think strange at the first blush, yet notwithstanding we must hold our peace, and not grudge, but rather confess that He is righteous, and wait till He shows us wherefore he chastises us.

Job is an example of patience under God’s unfavorable Providences.
And herewithal we have to behold the patience of the man that is set here before our eyes, according as Saint James exhorts us (James 5:11). For when God shows us that we ought to bear all the miseries that He shall send upon us: we can well afford to confess that it is our duty so to do: but yet therewithal we allege our own frailty, and we bear ourselves in hand, that that ought to serve for our excuse. Wherefore it is good for us to have such examples, as show unto us how there have been other men as frail as we, who nevertheless have resisted temptations, and continued steadfastly in obedience unto God, although He has scourged them even with extremity. Thus have we here an excellent mirror. Moreover, we have to consider not only the patience of Job: but also the issue of it, as Saint James says. For had Job continued in misery: albeit that he had had more than an Angelical strength in himself, yet had that been no happy issue. But when we see he was not disappointed of his hope, and that he found grace, because he humbled himself before God: Upon the sight of such an issue we may conclude, that there is nothing better, than to submit ourselves unto God, and to suffer peaceably whatsoever He sends us, until He deliver us of His own mere goodness.

The doctrine: the spiritual temptations of Job’s friends were worse than his physical afflictions.

And herewithal (besides the story) we have to consider the doctrine comprised in this book That is to wit, concerning those that came unto Job under pretence to comfort him, and yet tormented him much more than did his own miseries: and concerning the answers that he used to repulse their checks, wherewith it seemed they would have daunted him. But first of all, as in respect of our afflictions, we have to note, that although God send them, and that they proceed from Him: yet notwithstanding the devil also stirs them up in us, according as St. Paul tells us, that we have war against the spiritual powers (Eph. 6:12). For when the devil has once kindled the fire, he has also his bellows: that is to say, he finds men that are fit to prick us always forward, both to feed the evil, and to increase it. So then we shall see how Job (besides the misery that he endured) was also tormented both by his friends and by his wife, and (above all) by such as came to tempt him spiritually. For I call it a spiritual temptation, not only when we be smitten and afflicted in our bodies: but also when the devil comes to put a toy in our head, that God is our deadly enemy, and that it is not for us to resort any more unto Him, but rather to assure ourselves, that henceforth He will not show us any mercy. See whereunto all the discourse tended which Job’s friends laid before him. It was to make him believe, that he was a man forsaken of God, and that he deceived himself in imagining that God would be merciful unto him. Surely these spiritual battles are far more harder to be born, than all the miseries and adversities that we can suffer by any persecution. And yet does God let Satan run so far upon the bridle, that he also brings his servants with him, who give us such assaults, as we see Job has endured. Mark well this for a special point.

The key to understanding the book of Job: Job had a good case that he argued poorly, and his friends had a bad case that they argued well.

But wherewithal we have further to mark, that in all this disputation, Job maintains a good case, and contrariwise his adversaries maintain an evil case. And yet it is more, that Job maintaining a good quarrel, did handle it ill, and that the other setting forth an unjust matter, did convey it well. The understanding of this, will be as a key to open unto this whole book.

Job’s case: God does not always punish men according to the measure of their sins, so he need not despair that God has cast him off.

How is it that Job maintains the good case? It is in that he knows, that God does not ever punish men according to the measure of their sins, but has His secret judgments, whereof He makes us not privy, and therefore that it behooves us to wait till he reveal unto us for what cause He does this or that. Thus is he in this whole discourse persuaded, that God does not always punish men according the measure of their sins: and thereupon assures himself, that he is not a man rejected of God, as they would make him to believe. Behold here a good and true case, notwithstanding that it be ill handled. For Job ranges here out of his bounds, and uses such excessive and outrageous talk, than in many points he seems a desperate person. And especially he so chafes, as it seems that he would even resist God. Thus may you see a good case mishandled.

The friends’ case is well argued and speaks of many right things, but ultimately they labor to cast Job into despair.

But on the contrary part, they that undertake the evil case (that is to wit, that God does always punish men according the measure of their sins) have goodly and holy sentences, and there is nothing in their whole talk which would not entice us to receive it as if the Holy Ghost Himself had uttered it. For it is plain truth: they be the grounds of religion: they treat of God’s Providence: they treat of His justice: they treat of men’s sins. Thus we see a doctrine which we must receive without gainsaying: and yet the drift of it is evil, namely for that these men labor thereby to cast Job into despair, and to drown him altogether.

Therefore we should be sure to build our cases on firm foundations.

But hereby we see, that when we have a sure ground, it behooves us to look that we build upon it in such wise, as all things be answerable thereunto according as Saint Paul says of himself, that he built well, forasmuch as he founded the Church upon the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, and therefore that it has such a conformity in it, as those that came after him, shall not make any other foundation, either of chaff, or stubble, or of any other brittle stuff: but have a good foundation, steadfast, and substantial, ready laid to their hand. Likewise in our whole life we have to look unto this point: namely that if we be grounded upon good and rightful reason, it behooves each one of us to stand upon his guard, that he reel not, that he waver not one way or the other. For there is nothing easier than to mar a good and rightful matter, so sinful is our nature, as we find by experience at all times. God of His grace may give us a good case: and yet we may be so stung by our enemies, that we cannot hold ourselves within our bounds, nor simply follow that which God has enjoined us, without adding of some trick of our own. Seeing then that we be so easily carried away: we ought the rather to pray unto God, that when we have a good case, He Himself will vouchsafe to guide us in all singleness by His Holy Spirit, so as we may not pass the bounds, which He has set us by His word.

Let us never apply God’s truth to any evil use, as Job’s friends did.

Herewithal also we be put in mind, not to apply God’s truth to any evil use. For in so doing we dishonor it: like as these men do here, who although they speak holily (as we have shown already, and as we shall see more fully hereafter) are notwithstanding but traitors to God. For they corrupt God’s truth, and abuse it falsely, applying that thing to an evil end, which of itself is good and rightful. So then, whensoever God gives us the knowledge of His word, let us learn to receive it with such reverence, as our receiving of it may not be to deface good things, nor to set a color upon evil things, as oftentimes those that be most sharp witted and cunning, do overshoot themselves, and abuse the knowledge that God has given them, unto deceit and naughtiness, turning all things topsy-turvy, in such wise as they do nothing but ensnarl themselves. Considering therefore how all men are given to such infirmity: it stands us so much the more on hand, to pray God to give us the grace to apply His word to such use as He has ordained it: that is to wit, to pureness and simplicity. And thus you see what we ought to consider in effect.

Job lived in antiquity in a land outside of Israel, but he was well known by the Jews.

But now that we understand what is in this book: we must lay forth these matters more at length, in such sort as the things that we have but lightly touched, may be laid forth at large according to the process of the history. It is said, that There was a man in the land of Hus, named Job, a sound and upright man, and fearing God, and withdrawing himself from evil. We know not, neither can we guess in what time Job lived: saving that a man may perceive he was of great antiquity: howbeit that some of the Jews have been of opinion, that Moses was the author of this book: and that he did set it as a looking glass before the people, to the intent that the children of Abraham (of whose race he himself came) might know that God had shown favor to others that were not of the same line, and thereupon be ashamed if they themselves walked not purely in the fear of God, seeing that this man (which had not the mark of God’s covenant, nor was circumcised, but was a Pagan) had behaved himself so well. But forasmuch as this is not certain: we must leave it in suspense. Nevertheless let us take that which is out of all doubt: that is to wit, that the Holy Ghost has indicted this book, to the end that the Jews should know how God has had people to serve Him, albeit that they have not been separated out from the rest of the world: and that although they had not the sign of circumcision, yet notwithstanding they walked in all pureness of conversation. By the knowledge whereof, the Jews have had occasion to be so much the more diligent to keep the law of God: and since He had vouchsafed them such favor and prerogative, as to gather them out from among all other strange nations, they ought to dedicate themselves wholly unto Him. Also a man may perceive by the book of Ezekiel, that the name of Job was renowned among the people of Israel (Ezekiel 14). For in his fourteenth chapter we see it is said, that if Noah, Job, and Daniel were among the people that should perish, they should save no men’s lives but their own, and all the rest of the people should be destroyed. See how the Prophet speaks of these three men, as of such as were known and renowned among the Jews, as I have touched already. And thereby we see what the intent of the Holy Ghost is: namely that the Jews should have a mirror and pattern whereby to know, how they ought to keep the doctrine of salvation that was given unto them, seeing that this man which was of a strange nation, had so kept himself in such purity.

Job may have been of the Edomites, but was still a part of God’s church.

And that is the chief thing that we have to remember concerning the name that is set down here, when he says that he was of the land of Hus. True it is, that some men do place this land far eastward. Nevertheless in the fourth chapter of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the same word Hus is put for a part of Edom. We know that the Edomites are descended of Esau: and true it is that they also had circumcision. Howbeit forasmuch as they were strayed away from God’s church, they had it no more as the sign of his covenant. Therefore if we take Job to have been of this land of Hus, then was he an Edomite, that is to say, of the line of Esau. And we know how the Prophet said, that although Jacob and Esau were natural brethren, both born at one burden: yet God of His mere goodness chose Jacob, rejecting Esau, and cursing him with all his whole lineage (Malachi 1:2, 3). Lo how the Prophet in speaking to magnify God’s mercy toward the Jews, tells them that He chose them not for any worthiness that was in their persons, considering that He had rejected Jacob’s eldest brother, to whom the birthright belonged, and had chosen him that was the younger and inferior. So then, although that this man was born of Esau’s line: yet notwithstanding we see how soundly he lived, and how he served God not only by upright conversation and equity among men: but also in pure religion, which he defiled not with the idolatries and superstitions of the infidels.

Job’s name.

As touching the name of Job, some interpret it to signify weeping or wailing. And other some take it for an utter enemy, not such a one as he hates, but such a one as is as it were a white for men to shoot at.

Other Scripture makes it certain that Job was a real person and that these events really happened.

There is no cause why we should doubt whether this man (whose country is so marked out, and whose name is expressed) were or no, or lived or no, or whether the things that are written here, did come to pass or no: so we should think it to be but a tale contrived, as if a man should under a counterfeit name set out some thing unto us that was never done. For I have already alleged the records of Ezekiel, and also of Saint James who showed right well that there was a Job indeed. And further, seeing that the story itself declares it, we cannot in any wise deface the thing which the Holy Ghost meant to utter so precisely.

There was still more soundness in religion in the world at than time than there is now.

As for the residue, we have to mark, that in that time, although the world was fallen away from the true serving of God, and from pure Religion: yet notwithstanding there was still far more soundness by a great deal, than there is at this day, especially in the Papacy. And indeed we see, that in Abraham’s time Melchizedek had God’s church and sacrifices which were without any defilement (Genesis 14:18).

Though full of error, the world still contained some reserved by God to worship Him.

And so albeit that the more part of the world was wrapped in manifold errors, and false and wicked imaginations: yet notwithstanding, God had reserved some little seed to Himself, and He had always some that were still under the pure truth, yea and which awaited continually when God should establish His church, and choose out one people, (that is to wit the offspring of Abraham) to the end they might know that they were picked out from the rest of the whole world. But very true it is, that Job lived after this time, howbeit that the Church of God was not then so well established as it was afterward. For we know that while the children of Israel lived in Egypt, it was like that all should have come to naught. And especially we see to what an afterdeal they were come in the end when Pharaoh commanded that their menchildren should be killed (Ex. 1:16): and in the wilderness where it seemed that God had rejected them. When they were come into the country of Canaan, they had great battles against their enemies, and especially the service of God and His tabernacle were not yet there so well appointed as was requisite. God therefore having not yet settled an apparent state of the Church, would there should always remain some final seeds of it among the Pagans, to the intent he might be worshipped: and that was also to convince those that are turned aside out of the right way like Pagans: for Job alone was enough to condemn a whole country. Noah also condemned the whole world (as the Scripture says, Hebrews 11:6, 7) because he held himself always in pureness, and walked as before God, at such time as every man had forgotten Him, and all men were gone astray in their own superstitions. Here then is Noah judge of the whole world, to condemn the unbelievers and rebels. As much is to be said of Job, who has condemned all the people of that country: in that he has served God purely, and the residue were full of idolatry, shameful deeds, and many errors. And this came to pass, because they held scorn to know the true and living God, and how and after what sort it was His will to be honored. So great regard has God always had (as I have said) to make the wicked and the unbelievers always inexcusable. And for this cause it was His will, that there should always be some men that should follow the things that He had shown to the ancient fathers. Such a one was Job, as the scripture tells us, and as this present story shows full well, who served God purely, and lived uprightly among men.

Job was a sound man.

It is said, that He was a sound man. This word Sound in the scripture is taken for a plainness, when there is no point of feigning, counterfeiting, or hypocrisy in a man, but that he shows himself the same outwardly that he is inwardly, and especially when he has no starting holes to shift himself from God, but lays open his heart, and all his thoughts and affections, so as he desires nothing but to consecrate and dedicate himself wholly unto God. The said word has also been translated perfect, as well by the Greeks as by the Latins. But for as much as the word perfect, has afterward been misconstrued: it is much better for us to use the word Sound. For many ignorant persons, not knowing how the said perfection is to be taken, have thoughts thus: Behold here is a man that is called perfect, and therefore it follows, that it is possible for us to have perfection in ourselves, even during the time that we walk in this present life. But they deface the grace of God, whereof we have need continually. For even they that have lived most uprightly, must have recourse to God’s mercy: and except their sins be forgiven them, and that God uphold them, they must needs all perish. So then, although that they which have used the word perfect, have meant well: yet notwithstanding for as much as there have been some that have wrested it to a contrary sense, (as I have said) let us keep still the word Sound. Then look upon Job, who is called Sound.

Job was sound because he was not a hypocrite.

And how so? It is because there was no hypocrisy nor dissimulation, nor any doubleness of heart in him. For when the scripture means to set down the vice that is contrary to this virtue of Soundness: it says, Heart and Heart, meaning thereby a double heart. Let us mark then, that first of all this title is attributed unto Job, to show that he had a pure and simple mind, that he bare not two faces in one wood, nor served God by halves, but labored to give himself wholly unto Him. True it is that as now we cannot be so sound as to attain to the mark as were to be wished. For as touching those that follow the right way, although they go on forward limping: yet are they so lame, that they drag their legs and their wings after them. The case then stands so with us, so long as we be wrapped in this mortal body, that until such time as God has quite discharged us of all the miseries whereunto we be subject: there shall never be any perfect soundness in us, as I have said before. But yet for all that, it behooves us nevertheless to come to the said plainness, and to give over all counterfeitness and leasing. And further, let us note, that the true holiness begins within us, insomuch that if we show all the fairest countenances in the world before men, and that our life be so well guided that every man shall commend us: yet if we have not this plainness and soundness before God, all is right naught. For it behooves that the fountain be first pure, and afterward that the streams that run out of it be pure also. Otherwise the water may well be clear: and yet nevertheless be bitter, or else have some other filthy corruption in it. Therefore it behooves us to begin always with this text, That God will be served in spirit, and in truth (John 4:24): for He is a spirit, and He regards the truth of the heart, as it is said in the fifth of Jeremiah. Then ought we to learn first and foremost, to frame our hearts to the obeying of God.

Job was upright.

For after that Job has been reported to have been sound, it is also said of him that He was upright. This uprightness is meant of the life that he led, which is as it were the fruit of the said root which the Holy Ghost had planted before. Job then had an upright and sound heart. For his life was simple, that is to say, he walked and lived among his neighbors, without hurting of any person, without doing any wrong or trouble to anybody, without setting of his mind to any guile or naughtiness, and without seeking his own profit by the hindrance of other folks. We see now what this uprightness imports, which is added in this place.

We should be upright in all ways before God and men.

And hereby we be admonished, to have an agreeableness between our heart and our outward senses. True it is (as I have said before) that we may well withhold ourselves ill-doing, and that we may well have a fair show before men: but that shall be nothing, if there by any hypocrisy or covert dissimulation before God, when it comes to the root that is within the heart. What must we do then? We must begin at the foresaid point, as I have told you before: and then to have perfect soundness, it behooves that our eyes, our hands, our feet, our arms, and our legs be answering thereunto: so as in our whole life we may show that our will is to serve God, and how that it is not in vain that we pretend a meaning to keep the same soundness within. And here you may see why Saint Paul also exhorts the Galatians to walk after the Spirit, if they live after the Spirit: as if he should say (Galatians 5). Verily it behooves that the Spirit of God dwell in us and govern us. For it is of no purpose to have a gay life that pleases men, and is had in great estimation, unless we be renewed by the grace of God. But what? It behooves us to walk: that is to say, it behooves us to show in effect, and by our work, how the Spirit of God reigns in our minds. For if our hands be stained with robbery, with cruelty, or with other annoyances: if the eyes be carried with lewd and unchaste looks, with coveting other men’s goods, with pride, or with vanity: or if the feet (as the scripture says) be swift to do evil: thereby we will declare, that our heart is full of naughtiness and corruption. For it is neither the feet nor the hands, nor the eyes that guide themselves: the guiding of them comes of the mind and the heart. Wherefore let us endeavor to have the said agreeableness which the scripture shows us, when it says, that Job having this soundness and plain meaning, did also live uprightly, that is to say was conversant among his neighbors without any annoying of them, and without seeking of his own peculiar profit, and kept an even hand with all the world. Also you see the reason why God proves whether we serve Him faithfully or no: It is not for that He has need or our service, or of anything that we can do: Because that when we deal well with our neighbors, so as we keep our faithfulness toward all men, according as nature itself teaches us: in so doing we yield assurance that we fear God. We see many which bear the face of very zealous Christians, so long as it is but to dispute, and to hold long talk, and to bear men in hand that they study to serve God, and to honor Him: and yet for all that, as soon as they have to do with their neighbors, a man shall perceive what they have in their hearts. For they seek their own advantage, and make no conscience to rake to themselves, and to beguile folk when they have them in their danger, by what means so ever it be. Now then there is no doubt, but that those which seek their own advantage and profit, are hypocrites, and that their heart is corrupt: and how earnest Christians so ever they seem outwardly, God bewrays that they have nothing but dung and poison in their hearts: And why for? For look where soundness is, there must needs be uprightness also: That is to say, If the affection be pure within, then will it follow, that when we have to deal with men, we shall procure the welfare of every man, in such wise as we shall not be given to ourselves and to our private commodity, but shall have that indifference which Jesus Christ avouches to be the rule of life, and the whole sum of the law and the prophets: namely that we do not that thing to any other man, which we would not have done to ourselves. So then, we perceive that by this commendation of Job many men are condemned, forasmuch as the Holy Ghost declares, that this man had not only a soundness before God, but also an uprightness and plain dealing among men. This plain dealing which he speaks of, shall serve to give sentence of damnation upon all such as are full of maliciousness, and upon all such as pass not to snatch and rake to themselves the goods of other men, or which pass not to spoil other men of their livings. This sort of men are condemned by this present text.

Job feared God, which is necessary for being upright.

For it follows, that He feared God, yea, that he was a man which feared God, and withdrew himself from evil. Now seeing that Job had had the praise of keeping right and equity among men: it behooved him also to walk before God: for without that, the rest is nothing worth. True it is (as I have said before) that we can not live with our neighbors to do harm to none, and to do good to all: unless we have an eye unto God. For as for them that follow their own nature, albeit that they be endued with goodly virtues, (for so will it seem) yet are they overtaken with self love, and it is nothing else but vaingloriousness, or some other such respect which thrusts them forward: in so much that all the show of virtue which appeared in them is marred thereby. But although we cannot have the said uprightness without the fearing of God, yet notwithstanding, the serving of God, and the regarding of our neighbors are two several things, in likewise as God has distinguished them in His law, at such time as it pleased Him to have them written out in the two tables. Then let us bear in mind, that like as heretofore under the words uprightness, the Holy Ghost meant to show after what manner Job lived among men: so also when he says that Job feared God, he means to set out the religion that was in him. And hereby we be warned, that if we will frame our life aright, we must first have an eye unto God, and then to our neighbors. I say we must have an eye unto God, to give ourselves over unto Him, and to yield Him His due honor. And we must have an eye to our neighbors, to discharge ourselves or our duty towards them, according to that we be commanded to help them, and to live in equity and uprightness: and finally (forasmuch as God has knit us each to other) that every man study to employ his whole ability to the common commodity of all. Thus we see how the case stands with us in having of an eye both to God and men, for the well ordering of our life: for he that looks on himself, is sure that he has nothing but vanity in him. For if a man were able to order his life in such wise, as he might seem faultless to the world, and yet notwithstanding, God disliked him: what shall he gain by his overlaboring of himself to walk in such wise as all men might magnify him? As to Godward he is nothing else but uncleanness, and needs must this sentence which is written in St. Luke (16:15) be verified, namely that the thing which is most high and excellent before men, is abominable before God. Then let us bear in mind, that we can never order our life as we ought to do, except we have our eyes fastened upon God and our neighbor. Upon God? And wherefore? To the end we may know, that we be created to His glory, to serve Him and to worship Him. For although He has no need of us as our neighbors have, nor is either the better or the worse for our service: yet it is His will to have reasonable creatures which should know Him, and in knowing Him, yield Him that which belongs unto Him.

This fear of God is the respect and honor due to Him as our Creator and Father.

Furthermore, whereas he speaks of the fear of God: we have to understand, that it is not a slavish fear (as men term it): but it is so termed in respect of the honor which we owe Him, for that He is our father and master: Do we fear God? Then is it certain that we desire nothing but to honor Him and to be wholly His. Do we know Him? That must be in such wise as He has uttered Himself: that is to wit, that He is our maker, our maintainer, and one that has shown such fatherly goodness towards us, that we of duty ought to be as children towards Him, if we will not be utterly unthankful. Also it behooves us to acknowledge His dominion and superiority over us, to the end that every of us yielding Him His due honor, may learn to please Him in all respects. Thus you see, how that under this fearing of God, here is comprehended all religion: that is to wit, all the service and honor which the creature owes unto their God.

We should fear God even when we are surrounded by people who do not, and especially when we are blessed to hear His word.

And surely it was a right excellent virtue in Job to fear God after that manner, considering how the whole world was turned aside from the right way. When we hear this, we perceive that although we live among the very naughtiest packs in the whole world, we shall be utterly inexcusable, if we be not given to the serving of God as we ought to be: And this is well to be marked, because many men are of opinion, that when they are among the thorns, God will hold them acquit and excused: and that if afterward they corrupt themselves, (or as the Proverb says) hold with the Hare, and hunt with the Hound, (which is all one) God will pardon them. But contrariwise look upon Job, who is called a man that feared God. In what country? It was not in Jewry, it was not in the city of Jerusalem, it was not in the Temple: but it was in a defiled place, in the midst of such as were utterly perverted. Albeit then that he were among such people, yet had he such stay of himself, and lived in such wise, that he walked purely among his neighbors, notwithstanding that at that time all was full of cruelty, of outrage, of robbery, and of such other like enormities in that place. Whereupon we have to consider, that it shall turn so much to our great shame, if we on our behalf have not a care to keep ourselves pure in the service of God, and of our neighbors, seeing He gives us such occasion as we have, that is to wit, that God’s word is continually preached unto us, that we be exhorted unto it, and that He reforms us when we have done amiss. It stands us on hand then to give ear to that which is shown us here.

Job withdrew himself from evil.

And therefore in conclusion let us mark that which is added here in the text: namely that he withdrew himself from evil. For we see that the cause why Job overcame all let and encounters that might hinder him from the serving of God, and from living uprightly among men, was for that he had a stay of himself: for he knew right well, that if he had taken liberty to do like other men, he should have been given to all vices, so as he should have been the enemy of God. Job then walked not so in the fear of God and in such plain dealing and soundness, without great store of encounters, or without the Devils heaving at him to overthrow him and to cast him into the filthiness of the whole world: but he withdrew himself from evil, that is to say, he withheld himself.

Though surrounded by evil, we must not participate in it.

What must we do then? Although we be in the church of God, yet we see great abundance of evils, and (howsoever it happens) there shall never be such plainness and pureness, but we shall be mingled with store of scorners and unthrifts which are firebrands of hell and deadly plagues to infect all men. Therefore it behooves us to be very wary, seeing there are so many stumblingblocks and so great looseness, whereby to train us forthwith unto unthriftiness. What remedy then? Let us withdraw ourselves from evil: that is to say, let us fight against such assaults after the example of Job: and when we see abundances of vices and corruptions reign in the world, albeit that we be fain to be intermeddled with them, yet let us not be defiled with them, nor say as commonly men are wont, namely that we must needs do as other men do: but rather let us take counsel by Job’s example to withdraw ourselves from evil, and to retire in such sort, as Satan may not be able to make us to yield for all the temptations that he shall cast before us: but that we may suffer God to cleanse us from all our filthiness and infection (according as He has promised us in the name of Jesus Christ), until he has pulled us quite out of the soil and uncleanness of this world, to match us with His Angels, and to make us partakers of that endless felicity, for the which we must labor here continually.

Closing prayer.

Therefore let us present ourselves before the face of our good God, with acknowledgment of our sins, praying Him to give us such feeling, that in acknowledging our own poorness, we may always have recourse to the remedy that He gives us: which is, that He pardoning all our offenses, will so govern us by His Holy Spirit, that although Satan be named the Prince of the world, and have such a scope among men, that the more part of them are so perverted as we see: yet notwithstanding we may not be harried away with them: but rather that our good God will hold us back under His obeisance, and that we may know the thing whereunto we be called, so as we may follow it, and maintain the brotherliness which He has ordained among us, so linking ourselves one with another, as we may desire nothing but to procure the welfare of our neighbors, to the end we may be settled more and more in His grace which He has granted us by our Lord Jesus Christ, until He make us to receive the fruit of it in His heavenly glory: and that it may please Him to bestow this benefit and grace not only upon us, but also upon all people and nations of the earth: etc.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

Another ex-president has passed away, so let us all please lower our flags to half mast. I would like to remember President Ford with those quote from...a reputable soruce:

First things first: Gerald Rudolph Ford was probably the greatest natural athlete who ever assumed the Presidency. Yes, he tripped on the Air Force One staircase in Salzburg, Austria. Everyone knows he tumbled down the stairs in full view of press and local dignitaries. What most people forget is that Ford managed to land on his feet and shake the hands of the reception committee without missing a beat. Try doing that when you're 64 years old.

Right on.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Study Bibles and Theology

The other day I was in either a Mardel or Lifeway bookstore (I don't remember which), and I was looking at the the theology section. Now despite there being a separate section containing only Bibles, the theology section had three Bibles on its shelves. Those three Bibles just happened to be the Reformation Study Bible, the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, and the John MacArthur Study Bible.

I just thought that was kind of funny.

The stockers apparently didn't think that any of the other study Bibles contained any theology.

And they'd probably be right (concerning the study notes).

Now that I think of it, I probably find something to laught at every time I'm in a Christian book store. Unfortunately, I also always find something to get mad at. And unless it is a big store like Mardel, I almost never find anything I actually want to read. Le sigh.

While I'm thinking up random stuff, here's another one for you: Last Sunday as I was driving to my church's new building for the first time, I saw another church whose name caught my eye. It was "St. Jude's Baptist Church". I have NEVER in all my years seen a Baptist church named after a saint. Isn't that weird? I wonder how they were able to name their church that without all of the other Baptists stoning them.

Here's a question for you, the reader. That's right, of you. Have any of you ever seen a Baptist church named after a saint?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thanks For the Memes

Recently I have been seeing some silly questionaires at various Christian blogs, and I thought I'd join in, despite the fact that nobody knows who I am or reads my blog. I have seen two different versions of the questionaire, so I am combining them into one.

I have decided to impose some rules on myself, just for the fun of it. For one thing, I am not going to use the Bible as any of my answers, because that is cheating. Most of the questions could be answered with "the Bible." I am not relagating the Bible to less importance--I am merely going to assume that my readers (if there be any) themselves will assume that I would answer "the Bible" for most of the questions.

Another rule is that I am not going to name the same book twice, though in many cases I very well could. Sort of like the Bible rule.

Also, I will add that in many cases there are lots of books that I could name, and so the answers I come up with may not be my favorites. For one thing, if I did that, I would be violating my first and second rules. For another thing, I simply may not be able to decide or remember what would be my favorite book for a particular question, so I'm just sort of going with what first comes to mind.

And finally, as some other bloggers have disclaimed, my answers do not necessarily indicate an endorsement for the idealogies of the books and/or authors.

Okay, let's begin.

1. One book that has changed my life: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
2. One book I have read more than once: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. One book I would want with me on a deserted island: This is tough without violating my self-imposed rules. Let me say, one book besides the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
4. One book that has made me laugh: Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan
5. One book that has made me cry: I don't know if that has ever happened, but the closest that I can think of in recent memory would be Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
6. One book I wish had been written: A chronicle of all my dad's childhood stories.
7. One book I wish had never been written: Holy Blood, Holy Grail
8. One book I am currently reading: The Roots of Endurance by John Piper
9. One book I have been meaning to read: Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
10. One book that has scared me: I don't know that a book has ever scared me, but I have been given a creepy feeling after reading various stories in Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood by...uh...Algernon Blackwood.
11. One book that has disgusted me: Well, not to jump on any bandwagons, but Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk.
12. One book that I loved in elementary school: Anything by Lloyd Alexander, particularly the Prydain chronicles.
13. One book that I loved in middle school: Despite my having been very critical of this book in the comments of another blog, at the time I loved The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. In middle school, yes. I somehow was able to read much larger books in much shorter time back then than I can now.
14. One book that I loved in high school: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. I never made a rule against using the same author twice.
15. One book that I loved in college: Well, I guess that would still be right now by Vladimir Nabakov.
16. One book that challenged my identity or my faith: I hate to copy off of Charles Sebold at Talking Out of Turn, but really he read my mind. The Potter's Freedom by James White. Sproul got the ball rolling, but this book is the one that really made me uncomfortable. Thank God for uncomfortable books.
17. A series that you love: Okay, I am going to have to sort of break my own rule (sort of) by saying the Hitchhiker's series by Douglas Adams. As much as Adams and I were diametrically opposed in our personal beliefs, as much as it breaks my heart to be convinced that (unless God stepped in at the last moment) Douglas Adams is now writhing in the hottest part of hell, I am a giant fan of his books. No, that is an understatement. I can recite long portions of the series from memory (mostly thanks to the radio show). And now that I'm being so open about all of this, I will go ahead and say that I could have used any one of his books to answer questions 1, 3, 4, 13, 14, 15. Also, the book that was posthumously released, A Salmon of Doubt, could be an answer for 9 because I have never read the whole thing, mostly because it depresses me because of the parts that I have read (concerning his hyper-atheism), so therefore I could also use that book to answer numbers 7 and 11. And finally, I could answer number 6 with something along the lines of How God Saved Even a Militant Atheist as I Was by Douglas Adams. Oh, how my heart hurts me to type that as a book I wish had been written instead it being a book that had been written. When I learned that he died 5 years ago, it hurt me hard. Not only for the selfish reason that I would never have any great new Douglas Adams books to read, not only because the way I learned was a very bad way to learn that one of your favorite persons has died (it was a question and answer on a radio game show--"What famous author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy died this week at the age of 50?"--That was a harsh way to learn)--not only those reasons, but because last I knew he was a fierce God-hater, and was now dead with no further opportunity for salvation. Let this be a lesson for us to witness like the dickens, for though we may not be able to communicate with our favorite celebrities, everybody around us is just as precious and in need of salvation, and who knows, they may become the next big thing and then be out of the reach our our witness. Anyway, back to the questions.
18. My favorite horror book: Well, I don't think of him as a horror writer, but the horror section is where his books are found, so anything by H.P. Lovecraft, particularly The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
19. My favorite science fiction book: *cough* See number 17....But besides that, I would probably have to say....Actually, I don't think I can say definately. But one that really comes to mind right now is Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick. Or anything by PKD, actually.
20. My favorite fantasy book: Another hard one. I might have to break my rule again and say Lord of the Rings. I used to read a lot of fantasy until I read Tolkien, and then I realized that everybody since him just copies him. I will give mention to David Eddings--I read some of his books many years ago, and I remember enjoying them and thinking that the characters were pretty original in the sense that they were so...I don't know...goofy. Not like dorky, but they just weren't your normal serious fantasy characters, but nor were they the type you find in a the sort of books that are intentionally humor-fantasy. Also, I love everything that I have read by Lord Dunsany. I guess that is considered fantasy.
21. My favorite mystery book: I have never read a mystery book. So I guess I would just say the ratiocination stories by Edgar Allen Poe.
22. My favorite biography: Lovecraft by L. Sprague de Camp. That was almost more interesting the Lovecraft's actual writings.
23. My favorite coming of age book: I don't know if anybody else would consider this a coming of age book, but I would have to say All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Here you see people coming of age in a whole new world.
24. My favorite book not on this list: The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. I have already worn out one copy and am on work wearing out the second.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Roger Keith Barrett - January 6, 1946 – July 7, 2006

Syd Barrett, the incredibly creative, intriguing, and other-minded musician, has died at the age of 60. Best known as the founder of Pink Floyd, Barrett is probably the most mythic figure in music history since Robert Johnson. So bizarre and often garbled is his story, that most people assume he died years ago. I will not eulogize on his brilliance because so many others have already done so. But I do recommend for any who may be reading this, to listen to Syd's solo albums. Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn is fine and good, but you really must listen to The Madcap Laughs. I also recommend that you read Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. And if you feel like setting up an eternal flame somewhere, dedicate to Syd Barrett.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dallas Mavericks Lose NBA Finals

Those of you who really know me will be really surprised that I'm writing a post about sports because I have long been completely ignorant and uncaring of all things sporting. But my wife has always liked basketball and when the NBA playoffs started, she began watching. And so I did, too. And living right next door to Dallas, I have turned into a big Mavericks fan. So I was disappointed to see the Mavs just lose the final by, I think, three points.

The Mavericks' team chaplain is Dr. Tony Evans, who is broadcast on NRB, right before RC Sproul. I only watch that channel for Sproul, so I often catch the end of Tony Evans, and though I don't know anything else about him, I have liked what I've heard. He seems to preach the Bible and not just fluff.

Anyway, Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat deserves their victory. Admittedly I have only watched basketball for a few weeks, plus some as a kid, but I have never seen anybody score as often as Wade, especially in very difficult circumstances. That guy just can't miss, and the Mavs kept fouling him. Silly people! Don't foul Wade! I bet that about 1/3 of Miami's score was from free throws, and most of those from Wade.

I hope he gets MVP.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

SBC Passes Resolution to Add to Christ's Yoke

At the recent Convention, Southern Baptists passed a resolution to ban all use of alcohol. You can read the article at When trying to find more information about this resolution, I found this article at I will now give you the opportunity to read both pages.

Okay. I'll start off with some positive things to say. The resolution is not binding on individual churches. So if any individual SBC-affiliated church decides to allow its members to drink in moderation, there will be no punishment visited upon that church or its drinking members. Secondly, the Baptist Press article mentions my man Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministries speaking against the resolution, and that is just grand. I refer to him as "my man" because I have decided that Dr. Ascol is one of my favorite people. His blog is probably my favorite to read, and his theology is always spot on. And whereas he may not go as deep as often as people like Dr. James White, he has such a gracious personality that I can't help but regard him as my favorite Reformed Baptist theologian. But I digress.

Now what can I say negatively about this resolution? Probably a lot.

To begin with, the powers that be in the SBC make the common mistake of not differentiating between using alcohol and abusing alcohol.

WHEREAS, Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35)

Provers 23:30 says that "They that tarry long at the wine" are the ones who suffer. Admittedly, how long "long" is is somewhat subjective, but anybody (at least when talking about any other topic) would agree that there is a difference between "tarrying long" at something and using it in moderation. As some of the commentators at Tim Ellsworth's blog pointed out, the same Proverb speaks against gluttony and adultery, but that doesn't mean that we should completely abstain from food and women.

The simple truth is that every time the Bible speaks against alcohol is when it is speaking against drunkenness. "Oh, well," says the ignorant objector, "nobody knows how much alcohol it takes to make a person drunk, so it is bes to avoid it all together." "Oh, well," I could just as easily retort, "nobody knows how much food it takes to make them a glutton, so we should just starve to death." "Now Stephen," you may say, "you're just being difficult. There is a huge different between the two!" Oh really? How so? How are the Biblical injuctions against drunkenness any different than the injunctions against gluttony? They are almost always in the same context and usually in the same verses! "Well," you say, "it is different because the Bible obviously expects us to eat." It also expects us to enjoy wine now and then. I could give all the examples in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, that give examples of wine being called a blessing from God (if you deny that then you're no longer an inerrantist, Mr. Fundy), or of Jesus drinking wine, or of Paul recommending wine to Timothy. And here is where the real ignorance comes in. "But," you say, "that wasn't wine like we know it. It was so watered down so as to be only 1% alcoholic." How do you know that? 'Cause your pastor told you so? Because you read it in a pamphlet and just accepted the author's word for it? Or because you've done a word study of the Hebrew and Greek words used for wine? It's obviously not the latter or else you would have discovered that there IS NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER between the wine mentioned postively in the Bible and the wine mentioned negatively. Even the wine that silly people say was barely alcoholic still made people drunk! If the wine in Jesus' time was just grape juice, then how did so many people get drunk off of it? If it was just grape juice then all of the Biblical commands against drunkenness would be silly! No, that wine that Jesus drank was probably around 13% alcoholic and made people drunk when they drank too much. You see, back in those days they didn't have pasteurization or refrigeration or other of the modern preservative techniques that we have to give us nice grape juice. Unless they drank all of the juice as soon as it was squeezed out (unlikely because then they'd have nothing to drink during the non-growing months), the juice either quickly fermented or turned into vinegar. And the fermentation process could not be stopped except by the natural way of when the alcohol content reaches a certain point that it begins killing the yeast that causes fermentation, and that point is about 12-17%.

Now then, what about this statement in the resolution that "some religious leaders...are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of 'our freedom in Christ'"? How is this a misinterpretation? I'd like some exposition on this. Unfortunately, I'm looking in the wrong place. Does now our freedom in Christ allow us to exercise our own judgment on matters not prohibited by the Bible? Would that not be an accurate interpretation? And is that not an accurate assessment of the alcohol issue? The moderate use of alcohol is not prohibited by the Bible, therefore Christians are free to drink or abstain as they wish?

Finally, we are told that "Also added to this resolution was an amendment urging the SBC to disallow anyone who drinks alcohol from serving as an entity/agency trustee or an SBC committee member." I do not consider myself a drinker because having a glass of wine every 3 months or so just doesn't seem to cut it. Nevertheless, since that is not complete abstinence, I'm sure that the bigwigs in the SBC would consider me as a person who drinks alcohol. I'm sure that they would consider a person such as Dr. Kenneth Gentry, who does not drink at all but nevertheless writes in favor of moderate drinking, a drinker. Because the facts don't really matter, it's just whose side you're on. Anyway, I guess it is a good thing that I would never be able to serve as an entity/agency trustee or an SBC committee member anyway because I'm not one of the "good ol' boys." After all, I would need Paige Patterson's endoresment to get a job anywhere high up in the SBC, and since I'm a Calvinist, that would never happen.

By the way, good ol' boy Paige mentioned this issue during his "discussion" about Calvinist with Dr. Al Mohler, Patterson said something to the effect that Calvinism concerns him because in some Calvinistic circles there is a tendency towards antinomianism-even saying that Christians are allowed to drink alcohol!

Now look here, Paige Patterson, the proper definition of an antinomian is a person who does not believe that God's law is binding on a believer. God's law, not your law, Mr. Patterson. It is true that many Calvinists do believe that Christians may drink in moderation freely, but I have yet to meet an antinomian Calvinist. As Patterson said earlier in his speech, when saying some positive traits of Calvinists, they are often lead lives of extreme holiness and piety. Which is it, Paige? Do Calvinists advocate holiness or antinomianism? You can't have it both ways. If you want to root out antinomianism in the SBC, then go after your Dispensational friends. That is where that brand of error thrives the most today. I would say that the majority of Southern Baptists are practical antinomians, and where you find the minority that are not is in the Calvinistic churches.

But of course, I am speaking as if being holy meant being faithful to God's law and obeying His precepts. Paige Patterson and the other fundamentalists are more concernted with obeying man's law. Too bad that such issues as the inerrancy of Scripture and the literal blood atonement of Christ are no longer "fundamentals" of the faith. I think persons such as myself should be called fundamentalists and the others should be called peripheralists. And just in case any of you should think that I'm a liberal because of my denunciation of fundamentalism, let me tell you what I think of liberals--I think they should be called "none-of-the-above-ists." That is, they don't believe in the fundamentals or the peripherals. They don't believe in anything that is Christianity. I agree with J. Gresham Machen that the struggle with liberalism isn't a struggle within the church, it is a struggle against the church. It isn't "Conservatism vs. Liberalism", it is "Christianity vs. Liberalism."

And so I have ended on another digression (I do that a lot).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Well, the clock on the wall says that today is 6-6-06, and dumb people are getting dumber. I just want to remind all of my gentle readers of what the Bible actually says: "This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666" (emphasis mine). So you see, the number refers to a man, and not to a date or UPC or anything else. Also, the number 666 is perhaps better translated as "six hundred sixty-six." What is the difference, you may ask? Simple. The number is not merely a set of three sixes, but is a whole number made up of six hundred sixty-six smaller numbers. So John the Revelator wasn't telling us to look for a series of sixes, but the actual number 666. But it's so fun to turn Christianity into just another kook superstition, isn't it? Rather than paying attention to what was actually written in the Bible, let's make up all sorts of silly things to go along with it and start getting spooked by every little thing that comes our way. The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Resurrection Conspiracy

I realize that this post is a bit behind the times, what with it being Easter related and all, and Easter is now past, but oh well. Back during the Easter week, I listened to a sermon by John MacArthur at from his series called The Murder of Jesus. It was about the Resurrection, and how Matthew seemed to be offering an apologetic for the resurrection using negative testimony. That is to say, rather than quoting everybody who did see the resurrected Christ, Matthew wrote about the Jewish leaders' conspiracy to make it appear that Christ's body had been stolen. It is as if Matthew was saying, "Look, you know Jesus rose from the dead because even His enemies tacitly acknowledged His resurrection by knowingly crafting a lie." The lie that the Jewish leaders concocted was that the disciples stole Jesus' body. That way, their beloved friend won't have looked like an idiot for predicting His resurrection. That, said MacArthur, was the only other explanation that could possibly be believed by anyone. I started thinking about all this, and I had a thought. Dr. MacArthur didn't mention this, it was must me going off on a tangent. Here is my thought:

Over and over again in the Gospels, we read of Jesus making comments about His impending death and resurrection, and we always then read of how His disciples had no idea what He was talking about. By the time you're done reading it all, one fact is firmly implanted into your brain: the disciples were absolutely clueless about Jesus' death and resurrection. His crucifixion came as a complete surprise to them, and it obviously left them very disappointed and disillusioned men. So then I thought this: If the disciples had no idea that Jesus was going to come back to life, it would never have occurred to them to steal Jesus' body! If we can accept the Scriptural testimony that the disciples were completely ignorant of Jesus' return to life, then that blows another hole in the anti-resurrection conspiracy.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Interconnectedness of All Things

Lately I've been in a big George Harrison mood. I've been listening to all of his albums (or all of that I've got, anyway) over and over again. Keep that in mind.

I've also been on a bit of a Peter Sellers kick. I've been watching the Pink Panther movies, and I decided to listen to one of the discs from my Celebration of Sellers boxed set, a collection of his comedy albums. One lady that Sellers collaborated with on some tracks was a comedienne named Irene Handl. She seems pretty funny, so I thought I'd look up some information on her. It turns out that she was in the movie Wonderwall, with music by George Harrison (that soundtrack is one of the two George Harrison albums that I do not yet have). I noticed that the screenplay for this movie was written by G. Cabrera Infante, an author of Cuban birth who writes beautiful (though often smutty) prose. One of his cleaner books, Holy Smoke, is a beautifully written book, clever and funny, as well as informative. It is about cigars, one of my other great passions. That book is one of my favorites. But I didn't know that he wrote screenplays. I looked to see what other screenplays he had done, and one is Vanishing Point. Well, this movie features a line quoted by Axl Rose in the Guns 'N' Roses song "Breakdown." GNR is one of my favorite bands. Vanishing Point also features "Delaney & Bonnie and Friends", a group that George Harrison played around with, and most of which backed him up on his smash album All Things Must Pass.

Isn't it fun how all these things just connect together? Dirk Gently would be proud.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I am a Beatles fan. The Beatles were the ones who made me want to play guitar. All my life consisted of for my teenage years was just The Beatles. As I got older I developed interest into other bands that took up more of my time and album-collecting energy, but the Beatles still hold that special spot in my heart as the Honorary Best Band Ever. Tonight I watched my DVD of their first film, A Hard Day's Night, plus one of the documentaries included. As I watched the documentary and they talked about the opening showings in London and Liverpool and whatnot, I had a thought. Which was this: Imagine how aggravating it would have been to not be a Beatles fan and trying to enjoy an evening in London's West End on the opening day of that film. Teenagers everywhere. I found London to be a little too crowded as it is. Can you imagine trying in to take in a little bit of the theater while all of that was going on next door? Criminy. Of course, only a fool would not be a Beatles fan, so I have no sympathy. Another thought that I've had for years is how it would have been to be a male teenage fan during Beatlemania. All of the media focus was on all the screaming girls, so male fans would probably have been perceived as a little gay. Oh well. I would have tried to get into a concert, too.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Inerrant Revelation

When it comes to eschatology, I am a partial preterist. Being a partial preterist, I like to think that I interpret the Bible sensus literalis, that is, in the literal sense in which it was written. In other words, poetry is interpreted as poetry, historical narrative is interpreted as historical narrative, etc. And first and foremost, I believe that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. If I come across a passage that is hard to understand, I compare it to similar passages that are more easily understood. Despite all of this, your average Dispensationalist (like the guys who write for Jerry Falwell's newspaper) will accuse my kind of not taking Scripture literally, and will perhaps slip in the accusation of liberalism somewhere (especially towards those of us who are Postmillennial). Which is all very odd. There are many different examples of how this can be proved false, some of which I may have posted in the past (I'm too old to remember what I've written, and too lazy to check). Today, I will provide just one or two examples of why partial-preterism is more literal in its hermeneutic than is Dispensationalism, and why it allows less leeway for liberalism.

My example comes from the book of Revelation, chapter 6, verses 12-17:

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Many people look at this and say, "Here, now, this must be about the end of all things, and not just the destruction of Jerusalem, as you preterist say. You're just not interpreting it literally!"

Well, I am interpreting it in the sense it which it was written, which is apocalyptic literature, which is full of symbols and imagery. This can be seen by looking at all the Old Testament prophecies which have all been fulfilled but not in woodenly "literal" ways. And I'll get to some of those in just a moment.

But before I get to my Scriptural argument, I will use an argument from God-given reason. If these verses describe the destruction of all creation as we know it, then how is that people are able to call upon the mountains and rocks to cover them? The mountains and rocks will be destroyed, so they are no help! Unless perhaps this isn't a reference to the end of creation...

But on a more Biblical note, I can live with being accused of not taking the passage literally if that means that I am interpreting Scripture with Scripture, because that is a much better method than any man-made method of interpretation. First of all, if we've been comparing Revelation with Jesus' Olivet Discourse in the Gospels, (as most schools of eschatological thought do), then we see that this coincides with the Great Tribulation that Jesus spoke of, for instance, in Luke 21:25-27. But when does Jesus say that this will occur? Luke 21:32 says that it would all occur before the generation to whom Jesus spoke would pass away. Forget Tim LaHaye, let Jesus interpret this passage for us! He states clearly that it would happen within one generation's time.

Now at this point your futurist (among whom the Dispensationalists are the most numerous and vehement) will do all sorts of flip-flops to make "this generation" mean anything but what it literally means!

What's more, the imagery of Revelation 6:12-17 is also seen in many other places. Let's look. There is Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37 showing the tribes of Israel as being stars and sun and moon. Judges 5:19-20 represents warring nations as stars. In Isaiah 13:10, we see the apocalyptic stellar imagery used to predict the judgement that came on Babylon. See similar instances of this imagery used about judgements that occurred before the time of Christ in Isaiah 34:4, Ezekial 32:7, Amos 8:9, Joel 2:10, and Joel 2:28-32. This last passage is particularly interesting because, just in case it should be stubbornly denied that the other prophecies have already found completion, the Bible makes it clear that Joel 2:28-32 has already come to pass.

In Acts chapter 2, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 (which mentions the sun being turned to darkness and the moon turning to blood) right after saying that it applies to their day. There can be no denying that the sun did not literally go dark nor the moon turn to blood at Pentecost! Rather, the only possible explanation after viewing all of these Scripture passages in their proper contexts, is to believe that the cosmic imagery refers to the overturning of the old ways to make room for the new. Revelation 6 is telling of how the Jewish way of life with the temple and the offering of blood sacrifices, etc, was coming to an end. A new way of life, a new creation was being inaugurated. That is what Peter meant. To continue to believe in a dramatic Dispensational futurist model is to kick against the goads.

Which, as much as I hate to say it because I respect this man greatly, John MacArthur does. He does this in an otherwise excellent chapter on the speaking of tongues in his book Charismatic Chaos. Dr. MacArthur takes the cessationist point of view, which says that the miraculous gifts ceased with the end of the Apostles. To which I agree. He then goes on to say, however, that these gifts will resume at the end-times, because they are mentioned in Joel 2:28, and Joel 2:28 is referring to the end-times. But Peter says that Joel 2:28 was referring to Pentecost in the first century! As much as I love Dr. John MacArthur, I am going to have to side with the Apostle Peter on this one. I'd rather interpret the Bible with the Bible than with the traditions of even well-loved men.

Thus far I have demonstrated with an example that partial-preterists are much more Bible-honoring in that they interpret Scripture with Scripture rather than with the imaginations of men, as futurists do. I have also shown, with the "this generation" bit, that preterists really do interpret the Bible more literally than Dispensationalists. But now I have one final thing to say. It is in regard to the charge of liberalism.

First of all, R.C. Sproul gives an excellent reason why partial-preterism is a great apologetic against liberalism in his book and series, The Last Days According to Jesus. To summarize his argument, it goes something like this. The critic says: "Jesus says that the end of the world would come within His generation. This, obviously, did not happen. Therefore Jesus was a false prophet. Therefore the whole Christian religion is false."

Now the Christian has two options open to him. He can, as the futurists do, say that Jesus was talking about the end of the world, but that "this generation" does not mean "this generation." As I have already shown, this does much dishonor to the text of Scripture.

The second option would be to say that Jesus was talking about a judgement that was not the end of the world, and that "this generation" does mean "this generation." And when you compare the historical accounts of the Jewish war and the destruction of Jerusalem with the Olivet discourse, you discover that Jesus was indeed correct in his prediction, and in very great detail, at that (not some sort of vague prophecy which anything could fulfill). Thus, the truthfulness of Jesus is more prominent than ever.

So which is it? The approach that leaves the skeptic saying, "I still believe Jesus was a false prophet because your "this generation does not mean this generation" ploy is just ridiculous and stupid, or the approach that silences the skeptic because it demonstrated Jesus to have been absolutely correct? Who opens the door for liberalism now?

Finally, I will talk about liberalism regarding a topic that drives me nuts. I have had heard many a preacher who confesses the Bible to be inerrant, to say something like this: "It is obvious that the apostles believed in a soon return of Christ, but they were wrong." They may even say, "Jesus thought He would return soon, but was mistaken. And that's okay because He said He didn't know the day or the hour." It's not okay. If you make statements like these, then you are throwing out inerrancy. I agree that the apostles may have mistaken ideas, but God would not have allowed them to write those mistaken ideas into Scripture. Everything that has been providentially preserved for us is without the error of merely human authors. The Bible was breathed out by God, and since He is perfect, then His Word is perfect. If Jesus was not sure about something, He would have not offered His guess. That was not the way respectable rabbis taught, and it is not the way that the Lord of all truth would have taught. Everything that Jesus said would happen has happened or will happen exactly when He said they would happen. We cannot, as responsible Christians, claim otherwise. If there is a mistake, it is not with the Biblical authors. It must be with the reader. If you read the Olivet discourse and decide that Jesus made a mistake, then you can be sure that it is your interpretation that is in error.

That's all I've got to say about that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hippity Hoppity Crappity

"Hip-hop has what all corporate America wants--18-35-year-old employed adults with growing families. That's why you see Russell Simmons producing clothes, Snoop Dogg hawking Chrysler. Everyone wants us. Why not the church?"

Tommy Kyllonen
Senior pastor of hip-hip Crossover Community Church in Tampa, Fla. (USA Today/RNS)

A: Because what the world wants is not the same thing as what God wants. The Bible is a much better mouthpiece for God than is Russell Simmons or Snoop Dogg.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. --Romans 12:2