Monthly Archives: December 2005

Job’s resurrection

Then Job answered and said:

“How long will you torment me
and break me in pieces with words?
These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
are you not ashamed to wrong me?
And even if it be true that I have erred,
my error remains with myself.
If indeed you magnify yourselves against me
and make my disgrace an argument against me,
know then that God has put me in the wrong
and closed his net about me.
Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass,
and he has set darkness upon my paths.
He has stripped from me my glory
and taken the crown from my head.
He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone,
and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.
He has kindled his wrath against me
and counts me as his adversary.
His troops come on together;
they have cast up their siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.

“He has put my brothers far from me,
and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.
My relatives have failed me,
my close friends have forgotten me.
The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger;
I have become a foreigner in their eyes.
I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer;
I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy.
My breath is strange to my wife,
and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.
Even young children despise me;
when I rise they talk against me.
All my intimate friends abhor me,
and those whom I loved have turned against me.
My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh,
and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?

“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’
and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’
be afraid of the sword,
for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
that you may know there is a judgment.”

Job’s reply here culminates in one of the most explicit resurrection affirmations contained in the OT. Yet, it is fulfilled within Job itself. Job does see God in his own flesh. He is restored and his enemies are put down. Indeed, Job is accepted by God and is able to intercede for his three accusers. Yet, for all that, a theophany, new wealth, and new children, was obviously not what Job referred to here. He wanted and hoped for a final reckoning.

So the pattern of death and resurrection is not only there in generalized way (we are looking for it because we know the Gospel story) but is specific to the content of Job itself. We know Job’s vindication is a type of the resurrection because his vindication fulfills the description of resurrection he gives without actually being that final resurrection.

Later, when Israel is taken into exile, that exile is portrayed as a death and the prophesied restoration as a national resurrecton. As we read in Isaiah 26 (see also Ezekiel 37):

O Lord, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

Jeff pointed out in a sermon back when I was in seminary some interesting parallels between the servant in Isaiah and “my servant Job.” This is reinforced, I think, by the fact that Job compares himself to a city under seige (a possibility for Jerusalem of which Solomon was aware, as his prayer at the dedication of the Temple shows). Job is a type of Israel and thus, finally, a type of Christ.

We don’t want 20-yr-olds but rather older women who look like 20-yr-olds

I’m not sure this represents much of an improvement. You still have an ideal produced by either biological freaks or by people with the money and time to invest in a huge fitness regimen (private trainers, nutritionist/cooks, etc). Christie Brinkley selling beauty products to make women look youthful is like some major league all-star selling baseball bats claiming that we will hit just as well as he does. The story ends with the punch line.

It might help that cosmetic surgery has become more popular and accepted. Since 1997 procedures ranging from botox to breast augmentation have increased by 465 percent.

The pretentious snot from Coldplay

This fromthe Kiwi reminds me of what may be my favorite line from the Gilmore Girls. The only problem is the blog post was about Green Day and the quotation is about Coldplay. But it still triggered my memory. Two members of a band have just wrapped up a successful performance.:

BRIAN: We were as tight as the Foo Fighters.

GIL: Tighter. Listen, if that pretentious little snot in Coldplay can walk around comparing himself to Bono, we can compare ourselves to the Foo Fighters.

Let not the band that has been around for a few years compare itself to anyone who has been a force for two-plus decades.

Another early church myth?

Reading the Jolly Blogger’s response was the first time I was introduced to Barna’s book, Revolution. While I appreciated JB’s reply, my overwhelming feeling was one of horror. After all, while Reformed blogger’s will know better, Barna has been respected by Evangelicals at large. What about other Protestants? Will they buy into churchless Christianity?

That’s why it is great to see that Christianity Today has approximated the same negative reaction to Barna’s thesis (hat tip: Ligon Duncan). I am extremely gratified.

One comment quoted from Barna stood out to me: referring to these churchless revolutionaries who have adopted “a first-century lifestyle based on faith, goodness, love, generosity, kindness, and simplicity,” as opposed to condescending to submit to Church membership. (I’m going to resist the temptation to diagnose the self-righteous moralism inherent in this description.) Does this completely groundless myth of a first-century non-institutional Christian utopia still hold an appeal for Evangelicals? If so, why?

We read in the NT Paul condemning schism, calling the church by the name of Christ, refusing to even suggest separation in churches corrupted by all sort of unchecked error, and insisting that baptism put us in Christ’s body, united us to Him so that we have died and risen in His death and resurrection; and yet anyone can simply appeal to the First Century Church as some kind of unquestionable model of churchless Christianity. How can this be? Margaret Meade’s stories of the Samoans seem far more credible than these “free love” versions of NT anarcho-ecclesiasticism. How has this baseless vision of the First Century managed to get such a hold on our imaginations as to give anti-“Churchianity” the moral high ground?

Whatever the cause, it is quite obvious the Reformed witness that outside the institutional church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation needs to be proclaimed and defended loudly among Evangelicals.

ADDENDUM 12/29/05 – 12:34 PM:For more response

Redefining redefinition

Accusing a Christian teacher of “redefining” some doctrine always sounds rather serious, and sometimes it actually is. With the rise of Modernism, it has been a recurring problem for false teachers to use Christian language to mean something else.

But in such cases what happens is that the definition of a word is entirely changed in meaning. What needs to be remembered is that “redefinition” does not only cover such cases. I can give you two differing partial definitions of dog: “a type of mammal” and “a type of warm-blooded animal.” I could be a biology teacher and, realizing that my entry-level students no longer knew what a mammal is, could start using the second of these definitions rather than the first. Then, some blogging biologist out there could accuse me of false teaching because I had “redefined” dog.

The point here is that I couldn’t simply deny the charge. I have not changed the meaning of anything but I have defined the word “dog” using different words. The equivocation would give my accuser a rhetorical advantage.

So, if you hear or read of someone being accused of “redefining” a key doctrine, be sure to ask questions to make sure what sort of redefinition is taking place, if any.

Exodus 3.6 and G-H exegesis

There is an argument going on (which I’ve tasted but not kept up with) over whether one would derive the doctrine of the resurrection from Exodus 3.6 if Jesus hadn’t told us to. One of the questions involved is whether or not “grammatical-historical exegesis” gives us reliable results.

The problem with this is that there is no reason to assume that Jesus made all his premisses explicit in his argument. There only had to be one unstated premise in his argument that was acceptable to some onlookers (not necessarily the Saducees; their refusal to accept the premise may have been their public condemnation) for the argument to work perfectly.

I don’t know what this means for G-HE in general as a grand statement of principle, but as I often encounter it in practice, I think it demonstrates it to be more or less useless. What I find in professors often trying to train semi-Biblically-literate students who are going to seminary is a desire to “reign them in” and give them a careful method that will give them assured results in their interpreting a passage. This involves a demand to focus on the details of an argument and passage. But this is entirely arbitrary. Anyone reading this blog knows that most writers expect their readers to already know something. To expect the intended meaning of a text to depend on only the details within that text is to expect something untrue of all human communication.

Reigning in imaginations may stop certain kinds of errors, but it will simply encourage others.

Christmas & Imputation

Every Christian knows what happened on Christmas (whatever date that was) was a necessary condition and an essential part of God’s work to liberate his people from sin and guilt.

But often times what happened is described in ways that leave our understanding anemic and our explanation of the person and work of Christ lacking. On the other hand, there is a disconnect between our more full descriptions of what happened on Christmas and our doctrine of salvation so that we don’t apply it correctly and leave our doctrine of salvation lacking.

What I mean is this. Our doctrine of imputation requires more than merely an affirmation (as important is it is) of the fact of the incarnation. Christmas is about the incarnation but it is about more than that; and that more is necessary for us to have a real doctrine of salvation–specifically, one that includes imputation.

The doctrine of imputation explains how a holy God can welcome into his presence and blessing an impure people–God reckons them as righteous before him because he accounts them as sharing in the righteousness of another. Among other things, this protects God from the charge of being arbitrary and lacking in a commitment to justice. God does not simply ignore his own holiness in forgiving sinners. He is not capricious. He meets the demands of holiness and punitive justice even in showing great undeserved mercy.

But, if this doctrine of imputation is to have any apologetic value, as it is often claimed to have, then we need to be careful about how we express it. To say that God can simply evade the requirements of justice by imputing the righteousness of someone to someone else (and to offer no further explanation) gives of simply another version of capricious injustice. Could God the Son have been born a Micronesian and drowned in the Pacific for the sins of the elect? Could he have been born in Egypt and eaten by a Nile crocodile as a toddler to make atonement for our sins? To the extent that we are trying to explain anything to anyone about how the person and work of Christ satisfies God’s justice, the whole relationship can seem so arbitrary as to solve nothing.

Think about real-life situations. Imagine someone served papers on you because he had been the victim of a car accident and had suffered great loss in medical expenses and time away from work. You would be shocked. “I wasn’t the driver at fault! I had nothing to do with that car wreck. Sue the driver.”

“But the driver died in the accident,” your adversary replies, “so I am imputing his guilt to you so that you owe me for damages. Since I have imputed this guilt to you my lawsuit is perfectly fair. The demands of justice are satisfied.”

Obviously, that would be completely insane. Imputation, rather than explaining God’s justice, if portrayed in such an arbitrary matter, actually becomes a charge against his character.

But that’s not what happened.

It is more like a situation in which your child got killed in a car accident and was at fault in the damage he inflicted on the driver of the other vehicle. Because this child was a dependent member of your household, the victim would have every right and reason to expect you to cover his damages. And, you would be able to pay for your sons sin as his representative.

So we don’t call the celebration of the Nativity “JoeBlowMas,” but “Christmas.” Jesus didn’t just become someone, anyone human in the abstract apart from rank or relationship. He came as Christ, the Son of David, the rightful ruler and heir to the world. He was a member of the priestly people who were called to bring blessing to all the families of the earth As the king of that people, he was also the representative of the nation–especially responsible to fulfill that commission to the other nations, and also the one representative and responsible for his own nation.

Even though a king in exile under the rule of others, Jesus was born with us related to him as his dependents. He had every right and reason to offer himself on our behalf as the true covenant head of God’s people.

Thus, we find that the Apostle Paul sometimes even refers to the people who belong to Christ as “Christ”: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” You would expect Paul to write “the Church,” in the place of the last word of that sentence, but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he does not.

Thus, the Pauline scholar N. T. Wright argues that for Paul (and, no doubt, for Wright as well), Xpistos bears an “incorporative” meaning: “Paul regularly uses the word to connote, and sometimes even denote, the whole people of whom the Messiah is the representative.”

But why should “Messiah” bear such an incorporative sense? Clearly, because it is endemic in the understanding of kingship, in many societies and certainly in ancient Israel, that the king and the people are bound together in such a way that what is true of the one is true in principle of the other.

And again

In Romans 6.11, the result of being baptized “into Christ”… is that one is now “in Christ,” so that what is true of him is true of the one baptized–here, death and resurrection. This occurs within the overall context of the Adam-Christ argument of chapter 5, with its two family solidarities; the Christian has now left the old solidarity (Romans 6.6) and entered the new one. 6.23 may be read by analogy with 6.11; whose who are “in Christ” receive the gift of the life of the new age, which is already Christ’s in virtue of his resurrection–that is, which belongs to Israel’s representative, the Messiah in virtue of his having drawn Israel’s climactic destiny on to himself. Similarly, in Romans 8.1, 2 the point of the expression “in Christ” is that what is true of Christ is true of his people: Christ has come through the judgment of death and out into the new life which death can no longer touch (8.3-4; 8.10-11), and that is now predicated of those who are “in him.” In Galatians 3.26 the ex-pagan Christians are told that they are all sons of God (a regular term for Israel…) in Christ, through faith. It is because of who the Messiah is–the true seed of Abraham, and so on–that Christians are this too, since they are “in” him. Thus in v. 27, explaining this point, Paul speaks of being baptized “into” Christ and so “putting on Christ,” with the result that (3.28) [translating Wright’s reproduction of Paul’s Greek here:] you are all one in Christ Jesus. It is this firm conclusion, with all its overtones of membership in the true people of God, the real people of Abraham, that is then expressed concisely in 3.29 with the genitive [again translating]: and if you are of Christ… When we consider Galatians 3 as a whole, with its essentially historical argument from Abraham through Moses to the fulfillment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ, a strong presupposition is surely created in faovor both of reading Xpistos as “Messaiah,” Israel’s representative, and of understanding the incorporative phrases at the end of the chapter as gaining their meaning from this sens. Because Jesus is the Messiah, he sums up his people in himself, so that what is true of him is true of them (The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 47-48; Emphasis added).

It is not only about Jesus’ bare humanity. His solidarity with Israel as Israel’s king, Is role as a king to the priestly people, the entire history of Israel through judges, kings, and empires is all part of the work that comes to a climax in the death and resurrecton of Christ.

And it is all implied in that royal title.

Just another thing to remember under the category, “The Meaning of Christmas.”

For Further Reading

pretty much says it all

I’m not claiming to have any major knowledge of N.T. Wright. Like I said before, I just started reading a little bit of his stuff . . . wondering what all the fuss is about. I wonder whether this guy is really a heretic, or whether the real problem is a high concentration of trigger-happy anathema-slinging attitudes, just looking for a scapegoat.

Save this to your computer now before it gets purged.

Merry Christmas! in case I forget

Not much to blog these days but Christas Eve is tomorrow and I am probably not going to bother to take time to do an entry like this later. So here it is now:

The Festivals of Christ and the Saints. Moreover, if in Christian Liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly. –The 2nd Helvetic Confession (1566)

God bless you, everyone, this season and in the new year as we remember the birth of the King.