Monday, November 30, 2015

Bonhoeffer and Abortion Bombers

When I was a professor and taught on Christian ethics, I like to ask my students if they supported Dietrich Bonhoeffer's action's against Adolf Hitler? For those who do not know, Bonhoeffer, a leading German theologian of the 20th century, was executed under the Nazi regime at the end of the second Great War due to his involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate the fuhrer. Virtually all of the students agree with Bonhoeffer's actions.

But if Bonhoeffer was justified in his actions, then what about the abortion bombers? This question is not a theoretical one. In light of the recent Colorado shooting near a Planned Parenthood clinic, the question is being asked again. If what Bonhoeffer did was justified, then why should we not seek to eradicate America - even through violence - from the scourge of abortion?

In today's Briefing podcast, Albert Mohler offers the following analysis:
Historically informed Christians, understanding the horrors of the 20th century will often ask the question, what about Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Bonhoeffer joined the resistance against the Nazi regime before and after the outbreak of World War II and he eventually was executed by the Nazis in the very final days of that war. In the in stage of his work for the resistance he actually joined a plot and became complicit in an effort to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Too often the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is simply cited as an obvious example that we are to follow in contemporary situations, but that falls apart upon a closer analysis. First of all, it falls apart on a closer analysis of Bonhoeffer himself. Bonhoeffer joined the resistance, he only moved to advocating and becoming complicit in violence after every other remedy had been tried and after he come to the conclusion that the entire German government, the entire Nazi regime was beyond any kind of legal or political remedy. Even then, Bonhoeffer was not convinced that what he and others had planned in terms of the killing of Adolf Hitler was ethically justified, but he claimed a justification in terms of the example of Martin Luther in terms of Christian history in that a bias towards action should guide the Christian rather than towards inaction when something urgent and important is at stake. But in this case, Dietrich Bonhoeffer complicity in the plot against Adolf Hitler not only left him with a deeply conflicted Christian conscience, but it was also premised upon his conclusion that there was no other means of remedy. The Nazis were in complete control of the government, the courts were completely corrupt, the system of laws and the entire government was under the totalitarian control of the Nazi regime. Just at that stage of analysis we are clearly in a fundamentally different situation in the United States of America.

Conservative Christians have every reason to be concerned about many trajectories and trends in this culture, and that includes trends in politics, in the law and coming from our courts. But we are certainly not in the position of stating that the regime itself is beyond remedy. Our situation is fundamentally different; we have recourse to the courts, we have recourse to elections, we have recourse to laws, we have recourse to political advocacy, we have recourse to moral argument. Christians have every right and furthermore every responsibility to be on the front lines of the cause of defending the sanctity and dignity of human life. We have every reason to be deeply involved, even urgently involved in pro-life activities, activities of counseling women who might be considering abortion, activities such as being involved in making the moral argument for the sanctity of human life, activities such as in every arena of our life being advocates for life under every situation as God’s gift. Bonhoeffer was right to point to Luther as arguing that the Christian should have a bias to action, but in our case that bias to action should be action of advocacy and witness for the dignity and sanctity of human life. And that same mission and responsibility for the advocacy for human life means that we speak up even for the human lives of those who are in the abortion clinics who are not unborn, but born.

As the media have rightly reported, we’re going to have to wait to have a fuller understanding of this individual and his motivations. In the meantime, we must be praying for the families of these three victims, recognizing the horrifying parallel that all three of the shooting victims leave two young children. The sanctity of human life means that four of those children deserve to have a father living and two deserve to have a mother living. Those lives snuffed out by the shooter in Friday’s attack. This much we know, the headlines coming out of Colorado Springs have been absolutely horrifying and we also know this, nothing we can learn about the motivation of this shooter will make that reality any less horrifying.

For more:
"Bonhoeffer - Student Edition" by Eric Metaxas: A Review

"Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas: A Review
"The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Review 
Bonhoeffer: Don't Try to Make the Bible Relevant
Metaxas and Piper on Bonhoeffer
Promoting Bonhoeffer: Eric Metaxas on the Glenn Beck Show

"JFK, Conservative" by Ira Stoll: A Review

Was John F. Kennedy a conservative? The question, at first, appears to be nonsensically and not worth our time. Yet in his book JFK, Conservative, Ira Stoll makes an interesting and compelling case that by modern definitions of conservative, JFK fits well within that stream.

JFK has always been a subject of interests to me beyond the Camelot mystic. Kennedy clearly had some conservative thinking: tax cuts and anti-communism come immediately to mind. Yet, Kennedy was a Democrat and the legacy of the Kennedy's is liberal. The late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy served for decades as a very liberal Democrat. It seems odd - impossible really - to suggest that JFK was a conservative.

In his effort to defend that thesis, Stoll offers the reader a chronological study of JFK. He begins with a Independence Day speech in 1946 and follows Kennedy's political stances, actions, and speeches leading up to his death. By doing this, Stoll shows that Kennedy was an ideological conservative who consistently defended conservative principles: personal liberty, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, and a national belief in God.

Many critical reviews of Stoll's book suggest that he never clearly defines conservatism. Grant it, I do not recall a dictionary-like definition, but anyone familiar with basic conservative principles will find them here and illuminated above. At times JFK sounds more like Ronald Reagan than Bill Clinton. And he sounds more like Barry Goldwater than Barack Obama. To read Kennedy in his own words, which is the strength of this book; he lets Kennedy speak for himself, makes one question how both Kennedy and politicians like President Obama or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are of the same party.

My question throughout the book, however, is if the thesis is true, and again I believe the author makes a compelling case, then why was he still a Democrat? Democrats, especially by the 1960s, were the liberal party. One answer is given by Jack himself: I'm a Democrat because my father was. Perhaps there is some truth to that, but by the time one enters politics, surely the answer must be better thought out than that. Perhaps it was because Massachusetts had been a Democratic stronghold for some time. Regardless, one major problem with the book regard his identity with the Democratic party. Another problem would be Kennedy's adulterous lifestyle.

Nevertheless, Stoll makes a compelling case and one that should be taken seriously. The left has written him off as a loon, but even a cursory reading of the book implies that the left hasn't even read the book. Stoll defends his thesis convincingly and, as a result, rewrites the history books.

All Around the Web - November 30, 2015

Baptist Press - Pro-marriage prof. faces possible dismissal

Rob Dreher - Dr. Everett Piper: A Man Among Boys

Hunter Baker - Can Christians Change the World After Obergefell?

Justin Taylor - The Christian Century No One Predicted

Justin Taylor - Marco Rubio on Faith, Anxiety, Peace, and Prayer—and Where God Was on 9/11

Washington Examiner - UPDATE: Kindergarten teacher denies Legos to boys in name of 'gender equity'

Friday, November 27, 2015

We Become What We Worship

From G. K. Beale's book We Become What We Worship:
The Hebrew words for idols are significant in this respect, since they refer to the essential worthlessness of idols. One word for idols is the noun gillulim, which comes from a Hebrew root meaning "roll." The noun form can mean either "pellets of dung" or "shapeless, loggy things." Either way, 'loggy' or 'dungy,' the word expressed the utmost contempt, and conveyed a double entendre, since the one would inevitably suggest the other." This is brought out perhaps most clearly in Leviticus 26:30 . . . and Ezekiel 16:36 . . . While such idols were highly valued by their worshipers, their real value was equal to excrement. Other words for idol are also employed. Scripture says Israel worshiped vain, empty idols and they became vain and empty:
They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and his warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them." (2 Kings 17:15)
The word in 2 Kings 17:15 for idols is "vanity, emptiness" (hebel).

The point is that our lives become vain and empty when we commit ourselves to vain idols of this world, since "there is no such thing as an idol in the world" (1 Cor. 8:4). Another word for idol in the Old Testament is also translated "a vain or empty thing", which is virtually synonymous with the preceding word (hebel). People may "resort to [empty] idols" for security (Is 19:3), but such idols will "vanish" and be "cast away" to the trash because they are worthless and cannot provide any security at all, except false security (Is 2:18-20). We may commit ourselves to some earthly idol for fulfillment, but there will be none, since such idols are truly empty and have no spiritual reality except a demonic one (see also Is 41:29).

Still another word for idol is a "thing of horror" or "thing of shuddering" (mipleset) (see 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chron 15:16). To worship such idols will being only horror and dismay, not the peaceful bliss that is hoped for. But when we begin to resemble the idols of the world and spiritual harm is set in motion, we don't often feel the harm at first. Often we don't sense it until it is too late. We are anesthetized to the hurt for a while - we have "eyes but can't see the spiritual damage being done, and ears but cannot hear the burning fires of destruction that are beginning to rage within." (307-308)

All Around the Web - November 27, 2015

Albert Mohler - They Did Not Honor Him or Give Thanks — Why Thanksgiving is Inescapably Theological

Eric Metaxas - Crisis of Despair:The Rise of Drug Abuse and Suicide among White, Middle Aged Americans

Kevin DeYoung - Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends Upon It

LifeNews - Poll: More Than 40% of Women Having an Abortion Attend Church, 70% Say They are Christians 

The Week - The death of the swing voter 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

November 22, 2011 | Mark 15:16-39 - Thanksgiving Service

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2011, I had the high honor of speaking at the community-wide Thanksgiving service at Hardinsburg Baptist Church.  My wife and I agree that it was one of the best services we had attended (and not just because I was the speaker).  The music was amazing.  The choice of songs was dead on.  Christ was exalted.  People worshiped.  Unity was clear.  And the gospel drove the service.

Thanks to the Breckenridge County Ministerial Association for inviting me to speak.  I hope the gospel was proclaimed and God was glorified.


All Around the Web - November 26, 2015

BreakPoint - The Syrian Refugee Crisis - A BreakPoint Symposium

Joe Carter - Why We Need to Know Facts About the Bible

Denny Burk - The Evangelical Theological Society after Obergefell

The Gospel Coalition - In Defense of Christmas Cheer

Justin Taylor - 4 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Michael Bird on Christus Victor

In his book Evangelical Theology, Dr. Michael Bird offers the following on the subject of Christus Victor.
Let's get Paul right here. Jesus' death is not only a transaction of my sin being placed into Jesus' account; there's much more to it. Jesus lets the powers do their worst to him, he takes the full brunt of sin, he drinks the dregs of judgment, and he allows death to hold him in its clutches. Then in the midst of a powerless death emerges a divine saving power to forgive, redeem, and renew. The festering cancer of sin has at last heard news of its cure. In the apex of death, life rises with healing in its wing. Satan's force is spent and his worst was no match for the best of the Son of God. The fatal wound of Jesus deals a fatal blow to death. The powers of this present darkness shiver as the looming tsunami of the kingdom of God draws ever nearer. the despots of the world live in denial as much as they live on borrowed time. This is Paul's atonement theology; this is the victory of God. (394-395)
I applaud the above. It is eloquent and shows why theology produces doxology. But to be clear, Bird affirms (and I with him) that Christus Victor can only be properly understood as the result of penal substitution. A few pages later, Bird writes:
Thus, the Christus Victor view cannot stand alone. The victory of God in Jesus' death needs to be explained with some other mode of the atonement hat shows how Jesus' death cancels sin, overcomes death, and vanquishes Satan. More likely, the victory of Jesus' death is achieved because his death is an atonement for sin, it is a substitutionary death, and it renders the devil's work of accusation as impotent (see Zech. 3:4; Rev. 12:10). (397)

For more from Michael Bird:
The God of the Gospel: A Review of Michael Bird's Theology Proper
The Goal of Theology: To Be Gospelized
The Gospel is From, About, and of God
Is God Impassible?
Is Karl Barth a Good or Bad Guy
Michael Bird on Why Eschatolgoy Matters
"Evangelical Theology" by Michael Bird Out Today
Humanity in Humiliation No Less: Michael Bird on Kenotic Christology

All Around the Web - November 24, 2015

Thom Rainer - Three Reasons Why Big Events Are Ineffective in Most Churches

Jason K. Allen - The Essential Marks of a Preacher

The Gospel Coalition - 7 Ways Christian History Benefits You

RC Sproul - Your Testimony Is Not the Gospel

The NY Times - Greek New Testament Papyrus Is Discovered on eBay

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Baptism By Fire" by Mark Updegrove: A Review

In contemplating historical hypotheticals -
What if John Adams - a patriot to be sure but headstrong, irascible, and often polarizing - had been the first president?

Or Lincoln's presidential rival, Stephen Douglas unopposed to the extension of slavery in new states as America expanded west, had beat him in 1860?

Or Franklin Roosevelt's second vice president, Henry Wallace, the most liberal member of Roosevelt's cabinet and a Russian sympathizer had remained on the ticket to take over for the deceased Roosevelt as the cold war began?

Or what if Richard Nixon's original vice president, Spiro Agnew, who resigned in 1973 amid allegations that he had accepted kickbacks as governor of Maryland, had ascended to the presidency after Nixon's resignation in 1974?
-we can appreciate the importance of having in place the right man at the right time. In almost all cases, by examining the tests they faced and the leadership they offered, we can get a glimpse of their greatness, or at very least, their goodness. (4-5)

Virtually every young child has once confessed they wanted to be President when they grow up. But the presidency isn't for anybody. History has called upon many men to take the mantle of the presidency at very difficult and perilous times. That is the subject of Mark Updegrove's book Baptism By Fire: Eight Presidents Who took Office in Times of Crisis.

As the subtitle suggests, the author looks specifically at 8 Presidents in our history who entered office in moments of crisis. These eight Presidents are:
  1. George Washington
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. John Tyler
  4. Abraham Lincoln
  5. Franklin Roosevelt
  6. Harry Truman
  7. John Kennedy
  8. Gerald Ford
Even a quick glance of the above list will reveal that the author has a broad understanding of "crisis." Washington's crisis was mainly one of precedent. The decisions he made would set the precedent for all future presidents. He also had to manage a clear break between the federalists and the whigs. Washington entered the White House after a major crisis - the Revolutionary War - now he had to keep the peace and set precedent.

Thomas Jefferson, too, didn't manage a crisis upon entering the Oval Office. Rather, he had to deal with the reality of two political parties with him being a federalists. Tyler's crisis was being the first vice-president to take the mantle. The debate regarded how to consider Tyler. Was he the next President or was he sitting in the place of the president until another one was elected?

In this list, we should really consider only a few as entering the White House in moments of crisis. In this list, I would include Abraham Lincoln (his election insured that war was inevitable), Franklin Roosevelt (the Great Depression), Harry Truman (World War 2 and the Cold War) and Gerald Ford (Watergate). Some of the other Presidents lead the country through serious crisis' (like John Kennedy at the height of the Cold War) but I only see these four as entering the President in moments of great crisis.

As the above question asks, what would have happened if Truman had lost reelection or if Nixon had won instead of Kennedy or if Washington had only served one term? That is the beauty of history. Yet before we think that the world would have fallen part (and it very well could have), let us not forget that many were petrified of Truman becoming President and many couldn't believe a Catholic would ever occupy the nation's highest office.

Overall, the book is a fascinating one but a bit broad. I was surprised to see some of the names (like Kennedy) and not others (like Lyndon Johnson). Nevertheless, Updegrove offers a book that history buffs alike will enjoy as he surveys each man's presidency unfolding for us the many unique challenges they faced.

The conclusion suggests that President Barack Obama might be a ninth candidate on this list. He points to both the economic crisis of 2008 and the ongoing Iraq War for reasons. Though the economic crisis was a serious challenge, I do not believe he inherited the mess of Roosevelt or Lincoln. Then there is the question of competency. Most of the names above rose to the occasion and stood above politics. President Obama, frankly, has not.

For more biographies on the Presidents:
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President Lyndon B. Johnson - "Lyndon B. Johnson" by Charles Peters: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Calvin Coolidge - "Coolidge" by Amity Shlaes" A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review
"The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler: A Review
"Double Down" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: A Review

American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Lyndon B. Johnson: American Experience

Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
George HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

For more:
"Rawhide Down" by Del Quentin Wilber: A Review
Coolidge: Men Do Not Make Laws
"Watergate": A National Geographic Documentary
"Saving Ronald Reagan" Documentary

All Around the Web - November 23, 2015

Russell Moore (Washington Post) - Stop pitting security and compassion against each other in the Syrian refugee crisis

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About the Syrian Refugee Controversy

WORLD - Embryos become collateral damage in nasty divorce spat

Preachers and Preaching - No Turning Back

Popular Mechanics - The Generation That Doesn't Remember Life Before Smartphones

Friday, November 20, 2015

Doug Wilson on the Fall of Western Civilization

Doug Wilson doing what only Doug Wilson can do:
Scripture tells us that Christ is the one in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17). Our secular society laughed. We scoffed. That is simply ridiculous, we said. We can hold it together without Him. And so, just a few generations after rejecting Him, where are we? As one fellow said in a similar context, everything is at sea except for the fleet.

We don’t need Jesus Christ to hold everything together. That’s what we said. We turned away from Him, and how has it gone with our bold new experiment? Without Jesus Christ, we no longer know the difference between boys and girls. Without Him, our college students need safe spaces for protection against tacky Halloween costumes. We no longer know that mothers should bear and suckle their children. We have turned age-old variations in the weather into an argument for massive increases of statist power. We can’t tell the difference between white people and black people anymore. Those appearances might just be a trick of self-identification, designed to get us to reveal our latent bigotries. If I say something awkward to that guy on the subway I might find myself remanded into counseling. We don’t even know what marriage is anymore, and if it had been within our reach we would already have been messing around with optional gravitation. Gravity is oppressive, not democratic at all.
Read the rest here.

All Around the Web - November 20, 2015

Russell Moore - Should We Pray For ISIS To Be Defeated Or Converted?

The Atlantic - What ISIS Really Wants

Sean McDowell - Was Joseph Smith a Martyr?

Joe Carter  How I Work: An Interview with Thomas Kidd

John Stonestreet -  First, See No Harm

WORLD - Jindal bows out of GOP presidential primary

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Theology Part 6

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 5
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 6

Having established that each monster in Beowulf's world represent violence, unjust revenge, and greed, it is time to make the obvious connection: these monsters are mirror's before humanity. Let us put it another way; the real monsters in the story are the human characters who war against them.

As we have made clear in previous posts, each monster is represented by the human race. Before we can criticize Grendel, a son of Adam through Cain, for violence, the author(s) is quick to remind us of the endless blood shed by man. Before we can criticize Grendel's mother, a daughter of Adam through Cain, the author(s) is quick to remind us of the endless cycle of revenge common among the world of man. It is no accident that Grendel's mother's lair is similar to Hrothgar's hall. Finally, before we can criticize the dragon for his greed, the author(s) is quick to remind us of the propensity among men for greed. Even Beowulf dies with gold in his arms.

This gets at the real root of Beowulf's anthropology: We are descendants of Cain. We are all fallen. We are all violent, revengeful, and greedy.

We are monsters.

This is what makes the story so rich. Instead of simply putting a mirror before the face of the story's many characters, the author(s) place that same mirror before the reader. I am a monster too.

This fits perfectly within the Christian worldview; a fact that should not surprise us considering the apologetic nature of the story. The original writers (or at least the editors of our one manuscript) were Christian. One is hard press to say anything positive about humanity after reading Romans 3. One is hard-pressed to disagree with Beowulf's authors after reading the countless condemnations against violence, revenge, and covetousness throughout Scripture.

No law will tame the beast. Only a hero can. And that is where our analysis turns next. 

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - November 19, 2015

Doug Wilson - The Suicide of the West
The massacre in Paris has brought two things, already obvious, into high relief once again. We are observing, in slow motion, a collision between two very diseased cultures. The diseases are quite different but seem, in some respects, to be made for each other. One disease is listless and the other aggressive. One has no organizing principle, no arche, and the other has the wrong organizing principle. One is idolatrous and polytheistic and the other is idolatrous and monotheistic. One believes that no gods should be honored in the public square while the other believes that only one should be, but that is a false one. One used to be Christian, and must become Christian again, while the other must become Christian. 
Andy Naselli - When You Indulge in Pornography, You Participate in Sex Slavery

Kevin DeYoung - We Need Theologians, Not Smarty-Pants

Preachers and Preaching - 10 Questions about Adventism

Thom Rainer - What (Some) Church Members Really Mean When They Say They Want Their Church to Grow

The Gospel Coalition - Pastor and Scholar? History Says Yes

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Pray in a World of Terrorism

There is a lot of debate right now in light of the Paris terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis. Many are living in fear that their city or workplace could at any minute come under assault from Islamic radicals living in their neighborhoods. Christians are in disagreement as to how to think about refugees and where to draw the line between compassion (see Trevin Wax's argument) and national security (see Kevin DeYoung's argument). (Christianity Today has a good summary of the debate)

I am currently reading through Martin Luther's helpful short book A Simple Way to Pray. In it he provides a helpful model of how to pray in a world of evil, war, violence, and confusion. Early on in the book, he counsels the reader to pray through each saying of the Lord's Prayer. Two of the models he provides, I believe, are instructive for us.

Under the first petition of the Lord's prayer (Hallowed be your name) he concludes his prayer thus:
Dear Lord God, convert and restrain! Convert those who would still be converted, that they with us, and we with them, sanctify and praise Your holy name, with true, pure doctrine and good holy living. But restrain those who will not allow themselves to be converted, that they cease the misuse, shaming, and dishonoring of Your holy name, and the misleading of those poor people. Amen. (8)
Under the second petition of the Lord's Prayer (Your Kingdom come), he concludes in a similar way:
Dear Lord God, Father, convert and protect! Convert those who have not yet become like little children and members of Your kingdom, so that that together we may serve You in Your kingdom with a right faith and genuine love, and then, come out of this assaulted kingdom into the eternal Kingdom. Hinder those who refuse to turn away from using their power and strength to destroy Your kingdom. Hurl them down from their thrones and humiliate them so they are forced to cease and desist. Amen. (9)
Lest we forget, Luther lived in a tumultuous and violent time. Western Christendem was under constant assault from Islamic radicals then as now. In these two prayers, Luther models the sort of Christian concern we ought to have: God's judgment and grace. Let us pray for the salvation of souls, the protection of the innocent, and the judgment of the wicked. If the wicked will not repent, there is plenty of biblical precedent to pray for their judgment on behalf of the innocent as the imprecatory Psalms illustrate.

I believe this is how we should pray in a world of terrorism. Pray for the conversion of souls - the only true ingredient for shalom. Pray for the protection of the innocent which very much is the role of government, but government is an institution established by the Almighty. He is the Lord over every kingdom. And pray for the judgment of the wicked. We hate Satan, sin, and death. We seek their final eradication knowing that Christ has overcome the world.

All Around the Web - November 18, 2015

Wall Street Journal - The Rise of the College Crybullies

Church Leaders - Al Mohler: The Greatest Challenge Pastors Are Going to Face

David Murray - The Islamic Revolution Comes to Paris

Stephen Nichols - ‘I’m an Evangelical’: Rescuing the Term

Preachers and Preaching - Evaluating Seventh-day Adventism

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Among the Cults

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in John's Gospel
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Apostolic Witness"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in Church History
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in Systematic Theology
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Among the Cults

After a thorough study of the deity of Christ in both biblical and systematic theology contexts, the editors of the book The Deity of Christ now zero in on how Christ is understood among Christian cults. The word "Christian" is an important qualifier in the previous sentence. The chapter's author, Dr. Alan Gomes, focuses exclusively on prevalent cults who identify with Christianity (thus Islam is not really discussed).

Gomes begins his discussion by surveying the lay of the land. He writes:
Some cults describe Jesus as a kind of guru, dispensing nuggets of arcane, theosophical wisdom, while others see him as a kind of quasi-divine being - less than God but more than mere man. Still other cultists believe that he attained divine status by obedience to the same commands and precepts that they themselves follow. And then there are those who regard Jesus to be God in the literal and full sense of the word but identify him as the same person as the Father and the Holy Spirit, thus denying that the one God exists as three eternal persons. (229-230)
With that said, Gomes shows that the Jesus among the cults are really nothing more than new editions of old Christological heresies.

He begins by looking at polytheists Christologies. Gomes has in mind the Roman world as the precedent. He notes that "Had the Christians agreed to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods, their worship of Jesus as a deity in addition to the Roman pantheon likely would not have generated any controversy" (233). The modern parallel is the church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-Day saints. Though they deny the label of polytheists, Gomes shows they are in fact polytheistic. The god of Mormonism is but one god of many gods.

He then turns to dynamic monarchianism and gnosticism. The modern parallel he has here is Unitarian Universalism who openly deny the Trinity often using the same arguments as the old heretics. Likewise, the ancient heresy of Arianism was denounced at the Council of Nicea and its modern parallel is Jehovah's Witnesses which use some of the same arguments as the ancient heresy.

Finally, there are the modalistic monarchianists seen today in the oneness Pentecostal movement. Of the above cults, this is the one rarely addressed head-on by evangelicals (in my opinion). Many would be surprised how prevalent this is in American Christianity.

Overall, Gomes offers a helpful guide to the Christological teachings to these and other modern cults. Ultimately we see that there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun; even in theology.

For more:
Is John the Apostle Alive and Well: Investigating Mormon Doctrine 
"The Mormonizing of America" by Stephen Mansfield: A Review
The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney: A Review
Joseph Smith's Last Minutes: The True Story
The Mormon Moment: SBTS Panel Discussion on Voting LDS in 2012
Here We Go: NBC Doing an Hour Long Special on Mormonism Tonight
On God, Religion, Politics, and Mormonism: Robert Jeffress on Bill Mahar
Here We Go Again: Mormonism and Presidential Politics

An Important Read: Is Mormonism "Having a Moment?"An Important Read: Jeffress on Faith, Politics, & Secularism
Glenn Beck on Mormonism: Misinformation Abounds   

All Around the Web - November 17, 2015

Joe Carter - Why Christians Shouldn’t Kill Baby Hitler

Eric Metaxas - Taming the PC Monster

Thom Rainer - Six Reasons Why Longer-tenured Pastorates Are Better

Jonathan Leeman - 22 Mistakes Pastors Make in Practicing Church Discipline

Washington Times - 500 pastors heed call to run for office, restore Christian values in U.S.

Monday, November 16, 2015

"We Cannot Be Silent" by Albert Mohler: A Review

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land, and its decisions cannot be appealed to a higher court to law. But the Supreme Court, like every human institution and individual, will eventually face two higher courts. The first is the court of history, which will render a judgment that I believe will embarrass this court and reveal its dangerous trajectory. The precedents and arguments set forth in this decision cannot be limited to the right of same-sex couples to marry. If individual autonomy and equal protection mean that same-sex couples cannot be denied what is now defined as a fundamental right of marriage, then others will arrive to make the same argument. This Court will find itself in a trap of its own making, and one that will bring great harm to this nation and its families. The second court we all must face is the court of divine judgment. For centuries, marriage ceremonies in the English-speaking world have included the admonition that what God has put together, no human being – or human court – should tear asunder. That is exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States has now done. (181-182)

Historians will look back, I believe, and note that America changed the minute it officially legalized same-sex marriage. But like most things historically, such a culture-shifting event is more complicated than gay rights and its legalization finds it roots decades prior. The legalization of gay marriage was a "long time coming" and people of faith need to be aware of what it means moving forward.

This is why Dr. Albert Mohler's book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong is so crucial to people of faith in general and Christians in particular.

Mohler does two things well in this book. First, he puts the legalization of gay marriage in its historic perspective. Mohler is clear that people of faith are as responsible for same-sex marriage as gay rights activists. The author sends the reader through an illuminating historical and sociological survey of how we went from an America which assumed traditional values to an America which is quickly criminalizing it.

Mohler shows that same-sex marriage is part of the broader sexual movement which is a cultural revolution that has spread at unprecedented rates in recent decades. He isolates four keys to its spread: "birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation." (17) Without looking at these in detail, consider the implications of these developments. Through them, sex was separated from marriage; children have become optional among romantic couples; marriage is no longer an expectation between two partners; and children can now be born/raised without sexual intercourse. None of this would have been possible a century ago.

Secondly, Mohler puts the legalization of same-sex marriage in its cultural perspective. Secularists might have joked that the sky did not fall the day after the Supreme Court redefined marriage, but Mohler shows that gay marriage is about more than homosexuals marrying. One helpful chapter in this regard regards the threat to religious liberty we are already seeing and which was predictable. It is clear that the secular left prefers erotic liberty over religious liberty and Christians must prepare themselves for that reality.

In short, this book is Mohler at his best. For those familiar with Mohler's work will enjoy each page of this volume. Mohler has been on the front lines of this issue bearing testimony to the Christian gospel and we should be thankful for men like him standing firm in the faith. This book is a reflection of that. It is practical (particularly in the last chapter which is a Q and A format) and informative. Some may be surprised by some of Mohler's conclusions (he affirms sexual orientation and does not object to same-sex couples fostering children). Before one criticizes the author, they should first hear him out.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Mohler is thoughtful, biblical, and gospel-focused. The world has shifted under our feet and it will continue to shift. But we need not fear, the gospel is still mighty to save and to transform even a world like ours.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

All Around the Web - November 16, 2015

Ryan T. Anderson (WORLD) - The future for defenders of marriage

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Islamic State

Kevin DeYoung - Ten Diagnostic Questions for Your Marriage

Thom Rainer - 12 Benefits Your Church Might Provide Your Pastors

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Reasons Pastor-Theologians Should Read Fiction

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Assumptions of Theology

From RC Sproul's book Everyone's a Theologian:
Systematic theology is based on certain assumptions. The first assumption is that God has revealed Himself not only in nature but also through the writings of the prophets and the Apostles, and that the Bible is the Word of God. It is theology par excellence. It is the full logos of the theos.
The second assumption is that when God reveals Himself, He does so according to His own character and nature. Scripture tells us that God created an orderly cosmos. He is not the author of confusion because He is never confused. He thinks clearly and speaks in an intelligible way that is meant to be understood.

A third assumption is that God’s revelation in Scripture manifests those qualities. There is a unity to the Word of God despite the diversity of its authors. The Word of God was written over many centuries by many authors, and it covers a variety of topics, but within that diversity is unity. All the information found in Scripture—future things, the atonement, the incarnation, the judgment of God, the mercy of God, the wrath of God—have their unity in God Himself, so that when God speaks and reveals Himself, there is a unity in that content, a coherence.

God’s revelation is also consistent. It has been said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but if that were true, we would have to say that God has a small mind, because in His being and character, He is utterly consistent. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

These assumptions guide the systematic theologian as he goes about his task of considering the whole scope of Scripture and inquiring how it all fits together. At many seminaries, the systematic theology department is separate from the New Testament department and the Old Testament department. This is because the systematic theologian has a different focus than the Old Testament professor and the New Testament professor. Biblical scholars focus on how God has revealed Himself at various points over time, while the systematician takes that information, puts it all together, and shows how it fits into a meaningful whole. This is a daunting task, to be sure, and I am convinced that no one has ever done it perfectly.

As I engage in systematic theology, I never cease to be amazed by the specific, intricate coherence of the scope of divine revelation. Systematic theologians understand that each point in theology addresses every other point. When God speaks, every detail He utters has an impact on every other detail. That is why our ongoing task is to see how all the pieces fit together into an organic, meaningful, and consistent whole. That is what we will be doing in this volume. (6-7)

All Around the Web - November 13, 2015

Russell Moore - Don’t Protect Yourself From Adoption

Kentucky Today - Kentucky Baptists now have chaplain, lobbyist serving at state Capitol  | Both good friends

The Atlantic - 10 Reasons Why You Should Underprogram Your Church

CBMW - A Story of Redemption: My Abortion Story

The Gospel Coalition - Why ‘Pastor-Scholar’ Is a False Dichotomy

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Theology Part 5

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 5 

We have now discussed in greater detail the first two monsters of Beowulf - Grendel and his mother - who respectively represent both violence/kin-slaying and unjust revenge. Together the monster couple serve as a mirror before the Anglo-Saxon culture.

Decades after their defeat, we are introduced to a third and final monster - a Dragon. He, too, represents something primal in all of us: greed. It should be noted that in the poem there are lairs: Hrothgar's, Grendel's mother's, and the Dragon. Among these three, only Grendel's mother's (though heavily decorated resembling the Heorot) is not decorated in greed. Grendel kills and destroys yet does not pillage. Neither does his mother. Both the dragon and the Anglo-Saxons, however, do; Grendel's arm is just one example. We humans love our trophies - whether of gold or of monster-flesh - and the cases that display them.

The dragon comes to his hoard by pillaging it. The gold is not his, but he doesn't care. He wipes out the villagers who own the treasure and then takes up residence. In his greed, the hoarding dragon rests in contentment.

The dragon only awakens when a small piece of his vast hoard is pillaged. The irony is rich. Greed is hypocritical. The greedy heart rationalizes greed in itself but is incensed - even violently so - when the greed of others rob us of our lust. The dragon illustrates this.

Once again, we have a mirror in the form of fantasy. The Anglo-Saxon culture in which Beowulf lived was a culture of greed and pillaging. Doug Wilson explains:
After a long period of time,a  runaway slave from the Geats finds his way into the dragon's barrow by accident. As he leaves, he does what every self-respecting Viking would do with someone else's stuff - he takes it. he takes just one cup, in order to pay off his master, but he takes it. This is an entire society that bases its economy on pillaging. Whatever generosity a king might display in being a ring-giver was a generosity that was fueled by raiding other tribes and taking what they had. The tribe that had first gathered this treasure had no doubt done it in just this way. Then a dragon comes and sleeps on top of that stash for years. A slave comes and takes one cup. But what does it matter that it s only one cup? He comes and he takes. That is what he does because that is what everyone does. And what happens next is what always happens next. (127)
And we know what happens next. The dragon kills and destroys. Countless are killed and cities are burned over a missing gold cup. Of course its disproportional; of course its unjust; but what else would you expect of greed?

And this spirit lies in the heart of each of us as the narrative illustrates. But not only does the epic show the spirit of greed in each of our hearts, but unveils the emptiness of greed. After slaying the giant, Beowulf sends Wiglaf to retrieve (pillage?) some of the dragon's gold in order to see what it is he is dying for. In his lap lies a collection of gold. Beowulf realizes as he dies that he can take none of it with him.

Even in his burial we see the vanity of greed. Beowulf is "buried" with his hoard of treasure. What good is that? What is most likely is that further up the river the lifeless, well decorated body of Beowulf will lie exposed along with his treasure - perfect for greedy grave robbers.

This is the spirit of greed and it consumes us all. Even our greatest heroes, like Beowulf, cannot escape it which is why the sequel to Beowulf is not another Viking hero, but a crucified Savior who gave up the Kingdoms of man for a cross.

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - November 12, 2015

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Orphans

Wall Street Journal - Christian Belief Cost Kelvin Cochran His Job

John Stonestreet - China's Two-Child Policy

Kevin DeYoung - Christmas Is Not for Cranks

Premier Christianity - When life gives you oranges

The Atlantic - Hating Queerness Without Hating the Queer

The Pastor's Book: What Pastors Should and Should Not Share With Their Wives from Crossway on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in Systematic Theology

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in John's Gospel
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Apostolic Witness"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in Church History
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in Systematic Theology

Having established both the biblical and the historic nature of the deity of Christ, the editors of The Deity of Christ now turn to a systematic theology of Christ's deity. The chapter is written by Dr. Robert Peterson who provides the reader with a clear, broad defense of his deity.

For those familiar with systematic theology, many of the categories here are familiar even if the language is slightly different. Peterson shows how Jesus is identified with God, receives worship and devotion exclusive to God, ushers in the final kingdom of God, and does the work of God. Due to such familiarity, I will not explore them here. However, I do want to highlight some of the areas that were insightful to me.

First, is the usage, easily overlooked, with the phrase "in my name." Notable here is Mark 13:6; Psalm 118:26; Matthew 7:22; Deuteronomy 18:20. Peterson notes, "In Matthew 18:20 and 28:19, then, the religious rites involved take place for the honor of Jesus, who occupies the place of God." One familiar with the Old Testament will recognize the importance of "my name" language. God, for example, redeems the Israelite out of Egypt for the sake of his name. Jesus uses that language for himself.

Secondly, the Lord's Supper clearly suggests divinity. Peterson writes:
Gordon Fee brilliantly draws out implications for devotion to Christ from Paul's teaching concerning the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 10-11. Fee agrees with Hurtado and Gathercole that "this is the Christian version of a meal in honor of a deity" and gives four reasons why this is so. First, Paul calls this meal "the Lord's supper," indicating that it pertains to "the Lord" in whose name and honor it is eaten (1 Cor. 11:20). Second, amazingly, "as with the Passover in Israel, which this meal replaces, this is the only singularly Christian meal, and the focus and honor belong to the 'Lord,' not to God the Father." Third, Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 contrasts the Lord's Supper with meals in pagan temples that he labels "the table of demons" (1 Cor. 10:14-22). "Thus Paul's clear setting out of the Lord's Table as the Christian alternative to these pagan meals assumes that Christ is the Christian deity who is honored at his meal." Fourth, Paul's severe words of correction put the abuse of the Corinthians in a strong christological framework. Make no mistake: a meal in honor of the Lord brings the Lord's temporal judgment on abusers (1 Cor. 11:29-32). "In Paul's Jewish worldview, such prerogatives belong to God alone." The passage as a whole, therefore, teaches a very high christology, where Christ is presented as divine Savior and Lord. (203)

Thirdly, Scripture affirms both that Jesus raised himself from the dead (John 2:19-22); 10:17-18) and that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Peter 1:20-21). Thus the resurrection of Jesus was a divine work "performed by the Father, Holy Spirit, and even the Son himself." (221)

More points could be added but these stand out to me. Ultimately I was reminded that no matter how much I read and study, Scripture's defense of Jesus's deity cannot be exhausted.

All Around the Web - November 10, 2015

The Hill - Supreme Court to rule on ObamaCare contraception mandate

WORLD - Abortionists admit emotional toll of grisly work

ERLC - The Transgender Movement and Government Overreach: Why it Matters

The Gospel Coalition - When Jesus Rebukes the Persecuted Church

The Verge - TSA remains terrible at securing transportation, Homeland Security internal report shows

Justin Taylor - “J. I. Packer in His Own Words”: A 20-Minute Documentary on His Early Life, Theological Influences, and Enduring Legacy

J. I. Packer: In His Own Words from Crossway on Vimeo.

Monday, November 9, 2015

I'm With Smith

I am currently in Elizabethtown, KY for the annual Kentucky Baptist Convention representing my church as a messenger. The annual convention is a great time for baptists to meet, fellowship, and handle the convention's business. Each year there seems to be at least one issue of severe importance that garners most of our attention. This year is no different.

The vote most prescient, in my estimation, this year is the election of our next convention president. Our two candidates are already known: 1) current Director of Missions of the Davies-McLean Baptist Association Jerry Tooley and 2) teaching-pastor of Highview Baptist Church Kevin Smith. Most years the difference between the candidates are minuscule and even difficult to tell. However, this election, more than most, is central to the identity and focus of the Kentucky Baptist Convention for the immediate future.

Therefore, I want to publicly endorse Kevin Smith for Kentucky Baptist Convention president. Here are a few reasons why.

First, I have met Dr. Smith personally and spent some time with him. He would, at best, recognize me and I am not the sort of person interested in making friends with people in high places. But in the time that I have spent with him, I have come to know him as a person of integrity, well-respected by everyone, well-liked, and of high character. I believe Dr. Smith is seeking this office for the right reasons.

Secondly, I believe Smith will guard the reputation and mission of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The Convention president is an important position and it is imperative we elect the right person. Of the two candidates, it seems clear to me that Smith is a greater uniter (more on that later) who will keep the convention focused on its primary focus of gospel-work in the state of Kentucky.

Thirdly, many will focus on Smith's race. Given our conventions tragic history regarding this issue, his election is certainly worth celebrating. Smith is worthy of the office and we can all celebrate the increase diversity it represents.

Fourthly, this.

(the full sermon can be accessed here)

My criticism of the above sermon clip (featuring the other candidate, Jerry Tooley) is not theological but ecclesiastical and missiological. Tooley openly rejects Reformed theology as do many Kentucky Baptists - a position that is perfectly legitimate. Baptists have always struggled with the doctrines of grace with diversity on both sides from its conception going back to its break from the English Separatists. This debate is as old as our convention itself

Tooley, however, takes his rejection of Reformed theology and has turned it into a crusade against Reformed Baptists in the Convention. Tooley has been as openly hostile to Reformed baptists as he has been to Reformed theology.

Let me be clear, if Tooley (or anyone else) was a Reformed Baptists saying the same thing about non-Calvinists in the convention I would come out with equal force against him. The above clip gives evidence of his divisive spirit that the Convention would do best to avoid. Tooley says himself his primary motivation for running for KBC president is not to promote the cause of Christ but to stunt the growth of Calvinism among Kentucky Baptists while laying the blame on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

Southern Seminary is not the enemy of Christ nor of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Satan is. And we need a leader aware of that.

This crusade-mentality is not new to Tooley. Having served at an adjacent association to the Davies-McLean Baptist Association for over six years, I saw next door just how far he is willing to go to shut out anyone who publicly espoused Calvinism. In an age where associations are bleeding and struggling to survive, Tooley has gone out of his way to prevent any church associated with Reformed theology from being associated with "his" association even if they are already welcomed members of both the Southern Baptist and Kentucky Baptist Conventions.

In short, the Kentucky Baptist Convention can do better than Jerry Tooley for the office of convention president and I believe Kevin Smith is a wonderful alternative to Tooley's divisiveness. I do not know what Smith believes about particular redemption nor do I care but I am confident that it will not be a matter of importance in his presidency. I would rather read in the Western Recorder about how the president of our Convention is building up a diverse church made up of Reformed and non-reformed pastors and congregations rather than tearing it down. One candidate has the right motivation, heart, and skills necessary to do so. That man is clearly Smith and I urge every messenger at this years annual convention to vote for him.

All Around the Web - November 9, 2015

Tim Challies - Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Denny Burk - Alan Chambers says “sin is irrelevant.” Is he right?

Thom Rainer - 11 Ways to Strengthen Your Church’s Children’s Ministry

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

Jason K. Allen - Four Reasons Why You Should Pray for Your Pastor Daily

Friday, November 6, 2015

All Around the Web - November 6, 2015

Denny Burk - Matt Bevin’s family tragedy and strong Christian faith

Christianity Today - America is building churches again: Decline has bottomed out, say analysts

Joe Carter - The FAQs: What You Should Know About China’s ‘One-Child’ Policy

The Gospel Coalition - 10 Skills Every Husband Needs

Popular Science - 10 Brain Myths Busted

Beale on the Meaning and Significance of "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil"

In his book, We Become What We Worship, Dr. G. K. Beale explains a life-long mystery of mine: what is the meaning of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil?"
Even the name of the tree - "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" - of which he was not to eat was suggestive of Adam's magisterial duty: "the discerning between good and evil" is a Hebrew expression that refers to kings or authoritative figures being able to make judgments in carrying out justice. Elsewhere the phrase usually refers to figures in a position of judging or ruling over others (2 Sam 14:17; 19:35; 1 Kings 3:9; Is 7:15-15). In this connection, that Solomon prays to have "an understanding heart to judge . . . to discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3:9; cf. 1 Kings 3:28), not only reflects his great wisdom, but would appear to echo "the tree of the knowledge [or discerning] of good and evil" (Gen 2:9), from which Adam and Eve were prohibited to eat (Gen 2:17; 3:5, 22). Commentators differ over the meaning of this tree in Eden, but the most promising approach explains the tree by determining the use of "know/discern good and evil" elsewhere in the Old Testament. In this light, the "tree" in Eden seems to have functioned as a judgment tree, the place where Adam should have gone to "discern between good and evil," and thus where he should have judged the serpent as "evil" and pronounced judgment on it, as it entered the Garden. Trees were also places where judgments were pronounced elsewhere in the Old Testament (Judg 4:5; 1 Sam 22:6-19; cf. 1 Sam 14:2), so that they were places that were symbolic of judgment, usually pronounced by a prophet. So Adam should have discerned that the serpent was evil and judged him in the name of God at the place of the judgment tree. (128-129)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Theology Part 4

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4 

In the previous post we discussed in greater detail Grendel's treachery against the Dane. Grendel is an violent outsider - really an outlaw, someone who is outside the law - who hates celebratory worship. Though cursed as a descendant of Cain, we see that Grendel is really a mirror for the treachery of human society as seen throughout the narrative of the human actors.

We turn now to Grendel's unnamed mother. Following Grendel's death, caused by the severing of his arm by Beowulf, his mother returns quietly and kills a friend of Hrothgar in the middle of the night. If Grendel represents the violence of the culture he is not welcomed in, his mother represents the spirit of revenge equally prevalent in that culture.

The reader knows nothing of Grendel's mother until the aftermath of Grendel's execution. It is then that we are told that Grendel was not the only bloodthirsty monster in the dark. Grendel's mother, too, is a descendant of Cain (and of Adam we should add) and thus the curse is equally upon her. The spirit that is upon Cain is upon her and her son. She does not flinch at the thought of taking an eye for an eye or, as in this case, a life for a life.

In the book, A Companion to Beowulf, author Ruth Johnston Saver offers the following insight:
The Anglo-Saxons must have felt a keen interest in the story of Cain, his crime, and his banishment. They may have wondered why the feud ended with Cain, because in Germanic tradition the sons or brothers of the dead man would have to carry out revenge. The Bible does not list any son for Abel, but Adam had a third son named Seth. To Germanic minds, Seth would have the duty of continuing the feud. (33)
This is precisely what Grendel's mother did. Without regard of real justice, she acts out in revenge. The reader is aware that Grendel's death, though violent, slow, and bloody, was, in the end, just. Grendel was a murderer who had to be stopped. Beowulf carries out the sentence of death upon the demon.

This is what makes Grendel's mother revenge so despicable. We all agree that the family of a convicted criminal executed cannot, at least under the banner of justice, seek revenge. Yet that is precisely what Grendel's mother does. Grendel is, in fact, the son of violence for his mother proves she is just as despicable as her lifeless son. Yet her first act of revenge was not enough for her. When Beowulf enters her lair, her lust for revenge when faced with the real killer of her son.

Revenge is a drink that never quenches our thirst.

Again, Grendel's mother is a mirror to the broader world she hunts in. One author provides the evidence in the following:
Revenge also motivates the many feuds that the poet refers to and is a way of life — and death — for the Germanic tribes. Old enmities die hard and often disrupt attempts at peace, as the poet recognizes. Upon his return to Geatland, Beowulf (2020 ff.) speculates about a feud between Hrothgar's Scyldings and the Heathobards, a tribe in southern Denmark with whom Hrothgar hopes to make peace through the marriage of his daughter. Beowulf is skeptical, envisioning a renewal of hostilities. In fact, the Heathobards do later burn Heorot in events not covered by the poem but probably familiar to its audience. Another example of revenge overcoming peace occurs in the Finnsburh section (1068-1159).

Beowulf's final battle is the result of vengeance. A dangerous fire-dragon seeks revenge because a fugitive slave has stolen a valuable cup from the monster's treasure-hoard. His raids across the countryside include the burning of Beowulf's home. Beowulf then seeks his own revenge by going after the dragon. (source)
It is at this point the Christian theologian should pause and consider the biblical warning against revenge. "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord, 'I will repay.'" Remember, also, the history behind the story. The pessimism of Wiglaf at the end of the story was a real one for the people of this culture. But the spirit of revenge would not cease until a new world entered their society. That was the story of Christianity rooted in a Messiah who defeated such violence by succumbing to it. 

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary