Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 3

The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 1
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 2
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 3
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 6
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Complete Series

What follows is a series of posts regarding the New Monist movement which combines neuroscience with theology and argues that science has "proven" we have no soul.  The problem I have with such a suggestion isn't just the challenge it presents anthropologically, but soteriologically. How does denying the existence of our soul affect our understanding of the gospel? That's one of the questions I hope to answer.  This debate is another example of the challenge that science can present for Christian theology.

The New Monism

In contrast to the traditional view, many are looking at the advances being made in neuroscience and embracing a monistic view of man.  It should be noted here that like those who try to find God in evolution, those in this new movement begin with the scientific evidence and then turn to exegetical theology.  Throughout their writings, multiple examples of neuroscientific studies are cited to argue that belief in the soul is no longer credible.

One example comes from Joel B. Green in his book Body, Soul, and Human Life.  He highlights one of the more famous stories of neuroscience that took place in 1848. Green notes that though this “may be the most famous story . . . it is hardly unique.” One day a twenty-five year-old railroad worker named Phineas Gage “experienced the piercing blast of a thirteen-pound iron rod that entered below his left cheekbone, penetrated his skull, traversed the front part of his brain, and exited through the top of his head.”  Gage survived the accident but was severely affected. Prior to the accident, Gage was known “as a responsible, efficient, energetic, and capable person” but afterward became “irresponsible and careless, given to raucous profanity, socially backward, and emotionally stagnant.”  In other words, “Gage was no longer Gage.”[1]

Similarly, Green tells the story of a forty-year-old male schoolteacher who in the year 2000 became addicted to pornography. Such activity eventually led to him making suggestive advances towards his stepdaughter who reported his actions to her mother who discovered “his growing preoccupation with child pornography and called the police.” He was then “legally removed from the home, diagnosed as a pedophile, found guilty of child molestation, and sentenced either to an in-patient rehabilitation program for sexual addiction or to prison.” While at the rehabilitation center, the man continued to make sexual advances and was then put in jail. Eventually, the man underwent neurological observation. There it was discovered he had an egg-sized tumor on his brain and when removed the man’s sexual “lewdness” and advances dissipated. However, a year later, his perversions returned and it was discovered again that the tumor had returned and, like previously, when removed, the man returned to his old moral self.[2]

Such stories are given to prove the point that our brains control us more than we previously thought.  Whether it is the question of free will or the existence of the soul, the goal is to make the point that science in general – and neuroscience in particular – is leaving no room for the soul or for traditional Christian theological assumptions. And like the debate over origins, it is time for Christians to reconsider some of their beliefs in light of the scientific evidence. Consider the following statement from Lawson G. Stone:
But what theological considerations privilege the partition of human nature into separate physical and spiritual faculties over against an often physicalist neuroscience?  Although the Bible is not the sole voice shaping Christian thinking, a theological analysis of human nature requires a convincing construal of the biblical narrative. If dualism fails here, they forfeit their status as a privileged Christian view and scientific denials of dualism appear less controversial. If dualist readings prevail, then the scientific claims of some species of monist physicalism constitute a more penetrating challenge to the coherence of the Christian vision of human life.  Thus if the immorality of the soul, and, hence, dualism are essential to Christian thought, then the church should be bracing for an encounter with science far overshadowing debates about creation and evolution.[3]
The statement is telling as Lawson admits that the debate over anthropology is hugely important not just theologically but also scientifically. The world of science is pulling theology in a different direction and the new monists are taking the bait. To them, neuroscience has proven that virtually everything is controlled by the brain and thus there is no longer a need for a soul. Furthermore, the concept of an immaterial soul goes against everything science stands for. In other words, the soul, because it is immaterial, cannot be proven.[4]

The biblical proof of their view is at times anemic. Throughout many of their writings, much is said regarding the meaning of Hebrew words like tOr and vpn.  For example, Stone goes through great pains to explain how Gen. 2:7 does not describe the creation of man’s "soul," but of his "life."[5]  Stone rightly notes that the language of Gen. 2:7 in regards to Adam is repeated in regards to the animals in Gen. 6:17 and Gen. 7:15. Dualists concede the point that Gen. 2 describes Adam as a living being.  In the conclusion, Stone notes:
In the end, this essay is not about the soul as we know it, because Genesis 2:7 is not about the soul, as we have traditionally conceive it . . . The exegesis of Genesis 2:7 clearly points to a situating of Adam in the midst of a range of creatures with whom he shares greater or lesser degrees of compatibility.  He is made from dust, as they are.  He has the breath of life, as they do.  He is a living being, a nefesh hayyah, as they are.  His interactions with them assume this commonality, as my comments on the serpent indicated.  No exegetical justification exists for finding here the notion of abstract, immortal, disembodied personhood that we usually mean when we speak of the ‘soul,’ just as it is equally unnecessary to introduce ‘Satan’ into the serpent narrative.  These narratives get along just fine without that metaphysical assistance.[6]
It is such statements that permeate these writings. The new monists argue that dualism is the byproduct of Greek philosophy.[7] This means that from their perspective, dualism is a philosophical argument, not a biblical one. As a result, Scripture either does not teach dualism or it is ambiguous regarding the parts of man. 

In this manner, after stating “that most Christian theology has in fact been greatly influenced by Hellenistic philosophy, but those influences were various” (primarily Platonic, Stoic, and Aristotelian), Nancey Murphy argues that “physicalism is the position of the Bible.” She clarifies, however, that such a statement is a bit more “complicated than that,” but still affirms its basic truth because “while there is wide agreement among biblical scholars that at least the earlier Hebraic scriptures know nothing of the body-soul dualism, it is surprisingly difficult to settle the issue of what the New Testament has to say.”[8]  In other words, the conclusion of the Old Testament is clear: we are only a body. The New Testament, on the other hand, the issue is more complicated an ambiguous. 

In regards to the Old Testament, Murphy, like other monists, argues “that the original Hebraic conception of the person comes closer to current physicalist accounts than to body-soul dualism.” She then suggests that the reason most Christians throughout the years have missed this fact is based on Greek philosophy and the Septuagint. The LXX translates the word vpn as yuch thus promoting the Greek philosophy of an immaterial soul.[9]  This allows the monists to write off dualistic interpretations of Old Testament passages, and many New Testament passages as well, as faulty. It is this point that really drives the exegetical and theological argument of the new monists. Since it is easier to make a monistic argument from the Old Testament, the new monists spend most of their time there, but when they turn to the New Testament they are tempted to simply say that the texts are ambiguous, they reflect Greek philosophy, and to remind the reader of the “wealth” of evidence from the Old Testament that there is no soul.

It should be noted here how confident Murphy and others feel in their exegesis of the Old Testament. Like previous monists, they present a simple definition of Hebrew words like vpn and tOr all the while denying (or ignoring) that the Old Testament does allow room for dualism. For example, the Old Testament hints at conscience activity in Sheol which implies an intermediate state which demands dualism. This is seen in texts like Isaiah 14:9-10 where the dead remember, recognize, and speak and in 1 Samuel 28 where the writer strongly suggests that Saul spoke to a deceased Samuel himself.[10]  Such texts, among others, at the very least allow room for some belief in an intermediate state and an immaterial soul. It is this possibility that likely best explains the sharp difference between Pharisees (who affirmed the immaterial soul and resurrection) and the Sadducees (who were monists and denied resurrection).

Furthermore, though the new monists are certain in their Old Testament exegesis, they resort to ambiguity in the New. Murphy begins her survey arguing that the New Testament was written in Greek and “has been read in light of Greek philosophy.”  However “there are a number of passages that many take to show that the New Testament authors espoused” dualism. These texts, listed by Murphy, include Matt. 10:28; Luke 16:19-31; 23:39-43; and 2 Cor. 5:1-10. However, in Murphy’s estimation, these texts are not clear enough to demand dualism.[11]

She then discusses Luke 23:40-43 interacting with Joel Green’s monist interpretation of it, but for the most part says little about the New Testament as a whole. Instead, she cops out saying, “the New Testament authors are not intending to teach anything about humans’ metaphysical composition.  If they were, surely they could have done so much more clearly!”[12]  Amazing how confident Murphy is about the Old Testament but uncertain about the New.

This then leads to the clear conclusion that
There is no such thing as the biblical view of human nature insofar as we are interested in a partitive account.  The biblical authors, especially the New Testament authors, wrote within the context of a wide variety of views, probably as diverse as in our day, but did not take a clear stand on one theory or another.  What the New Testament authors do attest is, first, that humans are psychophysical unities, second, that Christian hope for eternal life is staked on bodily resurrection rather than an immortal soul; and, third, that humans are to be understood in terms of their relationships – relationships to the community of believers and especially to God.[13]
Here again, Murphy shows her inconsistency. Her certainty regarding the view of the Old Testament and her uncertainty regarding the New really shows her own bias. She begins with the conclusion of monism and when presented with clear (and admitted) problems from the New Testament (and even from the Old), she resorts to ambiguity, uncertainty, and doubt, but strangely this doubt does not keep her from holding fast to her monistic conclusion.

This brief survey of Christian monism has shown that their greatest strength is the voice of many neuroscientists and philosophers, but are rather weak exegetically. Though some monistic scholars have presented exegetical defense of their views and take on the many texts in the New Testament that call into question monism, the discussion centers on science and philosophy.[14]

[1]  Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (Grand Rapids:  Paternoster, 2008), 82.
[2]  Ibid., 73.
[3]  Lawson G. Stone, “The Soul: Possession, Part, or Person?  The Genesis of Human Nature in Genesis 2:7” in Joel B. Green, What About the Soul: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology (Nashville: Abingdom Press, 2004), 48.
[4]  One writes argues, “Neuroscientists are moving toward a unified theory of mind-brain that implies a monist view of the human person.  In short, no longer will we be able to isolate a separate ethereal mind or soul. A divided dualism with a mindless body and a disembodied soul will not square with science, nor, we are told, does it square with a careful reading of the Bible.” Michael A. Rynkiewich, “What About the Dust?: Missiological Musings on Anthropology” in What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, ed. Joel B. Green (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), 134.
[5]  Genesis 2:7 reads, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (vpn).”
[6]  Ibid., 59.
[7]  See Ibid., 57, Warren Brown, H. Newton Malony, and Nancey Murphy, eds., Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 1998), 2, and Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (New York:  Cambridge University Press, 2006), 12-13.
[8]  Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, 16-17.
[9]  Murphy writes, “It is widely agreed now that the Hebrew word translated “soul” . . . – nephesh – did not mean what later Christians have meant by “soul.”  In most of these cases, it is simply a way of referring to the whole living persons.”  Ibid., 18.  Some of the specific passages cited by Murphy include Genesis 2:7, Psalm 16:10; and Psalm 25:20.
[10]  I am not suggesting that it is literally Samuel, but that the text reads that way. The debate over who the medium conjures up will not be solved here. However, it should be pointed out that the text suggests that it is Samuel himself who speaks. Since the text suggests that this is actually Samuel it must mean that there was room in Hebrew thought for an intermediate state as Samuel is clearly in a spirited state, not a physical one.  This would also explain why necromancy is condemned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:19). For a monist exegesis of this text, see Bill T. Arnold, “Soul-Searching Questions About 1 Samuel 28: Samuel’s Appearance at Endor and Christian Anthropology,” in What About the Soul?, 75-84.
[11]  Murphy writes, “It is not clear what to make of these passages.  For example, the Lukan parallel to the text from Matthew reads ‘do not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do . . . fear him who, after he was killed, has authority to cast into hell . . .’ (Lk. 12:4-5).  Which is the better representation fo Jesus’ own words?”  Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, 19.  The obvious problem here (among others) is the apparent belief that one parallel is right and the other is wrong.  Traditionally, Christians have embraced the message of both.  If Murphy is left picking one that best fits her physicalism then is she admitting that dualism is an accurate interpretation of Jesus words in Matthew 10:28?
[12]  Ibid., 21.  Two paragraphs later, Murphy adds, “So the Greek philosophers we have surveyed were interested in the question: what are the essential parts that make up a human being?  In contrast, for the biblical authors each ‘part’ (‘part’ in the scare quotes) stands for he whole person thought of from a certain angle.  For example, ‘spirit’ stands for the whole person in relation to God.  What the New Testament authors are concerned with, then, is human beings in relationship to the natural world, to the community, and to God.  Paul’s distinction between spirit and flesh is not our later distinction between soul and body.  Paul is concerned with two ways of living: one in conformity with the Spirit of God, and the other in conformity to the old aeon before Christ.”  Ibid., 21-22.
[13]  Ibid., 22. Murphy then adds, “I believe that we can conclude, further, hat this leaves contemporary Christians free to choose among several options.  It would be very bold of me to say that dualism per se is ruled out, given that it has been so prominent in the tradition.  However, the radical dualisms of Plato and Rene Descartes, which take the body to be unnecessary for, or even a hindrance to, full human life, are clearly out of bounds.  Equally unacceptable is any physicalist account that denies human ability to be in relationship with God. Thus, many reductionist forms of physicalism are also out of bounds.”  Ibid.
[14]  The scholar that takes the biblical text most seriously is without a doubt Joel Green.  In his books and articles he spends much of his time (if not the majority of his time) dealing with exegetical issues.  See for example Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, Joel Green, “‘Bodies – That is, Human Lives’: A Re-Examination of Human Nature in the Bible” in Brown, Murphy, and Malony, eds., Whatever Happened to the Soul?, 149-174, and Joel Green, “Resurrection of the Body: New Testament Voices Concerning Personal Continuity and the Afterlife,” in What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, 85-100.

All Around the Web - May 31, 2016

Nicholas Kristof - The Liberal Blind Spot | "On campuses at this point, illiberalism is led by liberals."

Russell Moore - What Does the Gospel Teach Us About War?

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text: Jude

Thom Rainer - Nine Distractions That Should Not Happen to the Pastor Right Before the Sermon

Chuck Lawless - 10 Misperceptions about Young Pastors

Market Watch - One of the biggest life regrets for older Americans is ..

Monday, May 30, 2016

"Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors" by Voddie Baucham: A Review

Ironically, it is the dramatic nature of Joseph's story, coupled with our addiction to heroic character arcs and story lines, that make it difficult to interpret this well-worn narrative properly. Our tendency is to look at the story in isolation as though it were one of Aesop's fables with a moral at the end: “Let ’em hate you. If you’re faithful, you’ll end up rich, powerful, and vindicated.” However, this interpretation not only misses the mark, it also perverts the very message of the narrative in particular, and the Bible in general. Joseph is not a mere example of what awaits us if we’re “good enough.” His story, like every story in the Bible, is part of the broader redemptive narrative designed to cause us to recognize the glory of our great God.

We all know the story of Joseph - the favorite son of the last Jewish patriarch betrayed and sold into slavery by his own brothers only to rise to save them from starvation - and that is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it is a central story of Scripture that unfolds God's ultimate plan of redemption. It is a curse because, like the many other well-known stories (like David and Goliath, Jonah, Moses, Abraham, and the miracles of Jesus), we have a tendency to moralize the narrative. In his new book Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors (Crossway, 2013), Dr. Voddie Baucham shows how to read the the story of Jacob's favorite son with redemption, and not moralism, in mind.

The book begins with a helpful introduction and first chapter that lays out the issues. Baucham explains what his book is not (a commentary, a sermon series turned into a book, etc.) and what the book is. Any believer, pastor, or scholar looking for an in-depth study of the story of Joseph will be disappointed, but anyone looking to apply a redemptive hermeneutic to one of the Bible's most beloved characters will be blessed.

In the first chapter Baucham rightly blasts our natural tendency to moralize the Bible. He returns to this exhortation throughout the book showing how exegetically it does not work. For example, when Joseph literally flees sexual temptation from Potipher's wife, it is tempting to interpret the text morally revealing how we ought to respond to sexual temptation. The problem, however, is the stories conclusion: Joseph is arrested and put in jail. Moralism depends on a happy ending otherwise the moral of the story makes no sense.

Key to Baucham's redemptive hermeneutic is the theme of seed, land, and covenant. The author walks the reader through this argument in an extremely helpful chapter on how to understand the Bible in general and Genesis in particular. Chapter 2, where this theme is discussed, is worth the price of the book itself.

From here, the author surveys the narrative of Joseph mostly highlighting two chapters at a time almost always returning to the theme of seed, land, and covenant. Like a good pastor, Bauchman explains any textual difficulties and background information necessary, but he certainly does not dwell on any of these unless he is forced to. Again, this is not a scholarly treatment of the story nor a commentary. Bauchman remains focused in showing what the story of Joseph has to do with the gospel.

Perhaps an example of how Bauchman applies the three themes of seed, land, and covenant might be helpful. In his chapter on Genesis 37-38, the author writes:
The significance of Judah's marriage is threefold. First, we have already seen how important the marriages of their children are to be the patriarchs. Abraham made his servant swear that he would "not take a wife for [his] son from the daughters of the Canaanites" (Gen. 24:3). Now we find Judah, the next in the line of the Promised Seed, doing presently that. This raises questions about the seed.

Second, not only does Judah end up with a Canaanite, but he "went down from his brothers and turned aside." This raises questions about the land. Judah wasn't sold into slavery. nor was he advancing the patriarch's acquisition of territory. No one forced him to abandon the Land of Promise; he simply departed on his own. This is an amazing juxtaposition.

Third, the narrative makes it clear that Judah has not just left for a short while. He is among the Canaanites long enough for the woman to conceive three times. Even if she was exceptionally fertile, this took at least two-and-a-half to three years. How could Judah have been raised by the last of the patriarchs, tasted the Land of Promise, and decided to "turn aside" to live among the Canaanites? This raises questions about the covenant. Is Judah part of the covenant people of God? Of course, this question will be answered later. Nevertheless, the point is clear: Moses is showing how far Judah has fallen. (54)
Baucham's approach has forced me to go back over the story itself and look more closely for these themes which has been extremely helpful to me. The significance of the Judah story here, as the author points out, is that though Joseph might be the main character in the closing chapters of Genesis, he is not its central character: Jacob and Judah are. Judah becomes the promised seed, not Joseph, and it is Judah that learns to lead after his own repentance and it is upon his offspring (his seed) that Jacob makes his messianic promise.

This is the pattern of the book. Though I felt that Baucham could have made more direct connections with Christ and His passion, Baucham illustrates for us how faithful exegesis leads naturally to redemption. He is always careful not to allegorize in his effort to reveal its redemptive nature common among those with a redemptive hermeneutic of the Old Testament.

One opportunity Baucham missed regards Genesis 49:10. The NASB makes mention of a mysterious "Shiloh" whereas the ESV, the translation Baucham uses, translates using the word "tribute." I prefer the NASB as it forces the reader to see the messianic connection more clearly. This difference of translation, something Baucham does not mention, leads to him ignoring it. He does well in emphasizing the metaphor of a lion and a king, but fails to see the messianic prophecy here.

Overall, however, this is a helpful book for any reader of Scripture. Though a concluding chapter tying everything together would have been beneficial, Bauchman succeeds in guiding the reader to seeing redemption in one of the Bible's most known stories.

 This book was provided for the purpose of this review by its publisher, Crossway Books.

For more:
"Against the Gods" by John Currid: A Review
Archeological & Historical Evidence of the Exodus

All Around the Web - May 30, 2016

Russell Moore - Signposts: What If Your Kids’ Sports Teams Interfere With the Church Schedule?

Crossway - How God Is Both Incomprehensible and Knowable at the Same Time

Trevin Wax - What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Preached On Memorial Day

Get Religion - Floods of Muslim converts to Christianity? The Daily Beast scratches the surface

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Jackie Hill Perry

Kevin DeYoung - Book Briefs

Some language.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Saying Shibboleth

I love this scene from The West Wing episode "Shibboleth." In this episode, a number of Chinese Christians are seeking asylum in the United States claiming they are under persecution. As the clip below shows, the White House is concerned that they may not really be Christians. The President, Josiah Bartlett, decides to interview one of them to see if he truly understands Christianity.

Such a scene is rare in American television today. The message and beauty of Christianity is made clear from the lips of a persecuted, and orthodox, sect of Chinese Christians.

In other news, please pray for the persecuted church.

For more:
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing

All Around the Web - May 27, 2016

Russell Moore - Why Social Media (and the Church) Is Making You Sad

Trevin Wax - Why The Culture Wars Rage On

Chuck Lawless - 10 Ways to Stay Connected with Your Church’s High School Graduates

James K. Allen - Pastors: Preach, Don’t Rant

Telegraph - Exodus: churches lose 11 worshippers for every new member

The Blaze - Study: More Millennials Living With Parents Than With Spouse or Partner

Thursday, May 26, 2016

All Around the Web - May 26, 2016

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About China’s Cultural Revolution

Eric Metaxas - Liberal Censorship

Tim Challies - 3 Priorities for Christian Parents

Gentle Reformation - The Backside Blessings of Blogging

Erik Raymond - How Exaggeration Can Undermine Your Joy in the Gospel

Kevin DeYoung - Don’t Waste Your Summer

A pro-adoption commercial. I'll take it.

First and Second Adam Contrasted

In his sermon, Straight Answers About Creation, John MacArthur offers a series of contrasts between the first Adam and second Adam (Christ) I thought worth exploring. Though we could certainly add dozens more of these, I thought MacArthur's list was an insightful one. I will first offer them in bulletpoint form and then offer the full quote afterwards.
  • The first Adam was given life. The second gives life.
  • The first Adam brought death. The second conquers death.
  • The first Adam lost paradise. The second gains paradise.
  • The first Adam is earthy. The second Adam is heavenly. 
Here is the quote in full:
Romans, chapter 5 – just a couple of things to read you as I try to make this point clear – Romans 5: “So then through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience, Adam, the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” You have Adam and Christ, Adam and Christ, the first and the last. Adam is such a picture of Christ.

First Corinthians 15 says the first Adam was given life. Adam: the first Adam was given life. The second Adam gives life. First Corinthians 15 says the first Adam brought death, the second Adam conquers death. Revelation says the first Adam lost paradise, the second Adam gains paradise.

First Corinthians 15, the first Adam is earthy, the second Adam is heavenly. First Corinthians 15, the first creation is in the likeness of God, the new creation again is in the likeness of God. First Corinthians 15, the first creation of bodies diverse, the new resurrection creation of bodies diverse. The juxtaposing of Adam and Christ, and Adam and Christ, and Adam and Christ all through the redemptive story; all these are salvation analogies drawn out of Genesis 1 to 3, all of them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Go Over Hedge and Ditch

From the sermon "How to Read the Bible" (sermon #1503):
That sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in Hell laugh, but might make the angels of God weep if they were capable of such emotion! You remember the story I told you of the Welshman who heard a young man preach a very fine sermon—a grand sermon, a high falutin, spread-eagle sermon—and when he had done, he asked the Welshman what he thought of it. The man replied that he did not think anything of it. “And why not?” “Because there was no Jesus Christ in it.” “Well,” he said, “but my text did not seem to run that way.” “Never mind,” said the Welshman, “your sermon ought to run that way.” “I do not see that, however,” said the young man.

“No,” said the other, “you do not see how to preach, either. This is the way to preach. From every little village in England, it does not matter where it is, there is sure to be a road to London. Though there may not be a road to certain other places, there is certain to be a road to London. Now, from every text in the Bible there is a road to Jesus Christ and the way to preach is just to say, ‘How can I get from this text to Jesus Christ?’ and then go preaching all the way along it.” “Well, but,” said the young man, “suppose I find a text that has not got a road to Jesus Christ.” “I have preached for 40 years,” said the old man, “and I have never found such a Scripture. But if I ever do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch and I will get to Him, for I will never finish without bringing in my Master.”

All Around the Web - May 25, 2016

Nancey Pearcey - Do Biological Facts No Longer Matter?

Thom Rainer - Seven Ways Church Outreach Has Changed in 15 Years

Collin Hansen - Why I’m No Longer a United Methodist

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about Satan

The Blaze - Church of Scotland Makes Major Change to Allow Pastors Who Are in Gay Marriages — but There’s a Twist

Priceonomics - What is the Internet’s Favorite Book?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 2

The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 1
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 2
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 3
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 6
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Complete Series

What follows is a series of posts regarding the New Monist movement which combines neuroscience with theology and argues that science has "proven" we have no soul.  The problem I have with such a suggestion isn't just the challenge it presents anthropologically, but soteriologically. How does denying the existence of our soul affect our understanding of the gospel? That's one of the questions I hope to answer.  This debate is another example of the challenge that science can present for Christian theology.

The Debate: Do We Have a Soul?

Due to recent developments in neuroscience, psychology, and other schools, the debate over the soul has become more heated.  Traditionally, Christians have affirmed the existence of the soul, but many are beginning to reject such an assumption. For the purpose of brevity, this paper will limit itself between monism and dualism. Though a trichotomy view of man remains a common view by some Christians, it, like dualism, affirms the existence of an immaterial soul/spirit and it is that fundamental belief that monists reject.

In Defense of Dualism

So do we have a soul?  From its birth, Christians have answered such a question in the affirmative.[1]  Christians have believed historically that man is both body and soul and between death and the resurrection the two will be temporarily separated. This includes Augustine,[2] Thomas Aquinas,[3] John Calvin,[4] the Heidelberg Catechism,[5] and many more. The historical record shows that in each age of the Church, the belief in both the body and the soul and an intermediate state was defended.

The grounds on which dualism was articulated was based primarily in Scripture. Scripture, and particularly the New Testament, overwhelmingly affirms the presence of anthropological dualism. In the Gospels, for example, Jesus repeatedly affirms dualism. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), for example, both persons die and find themselves immediately in their eternal state - one in “Abraham’s bosom” and the other in Hades. This text clearly affirms an intermediate state especially since both men are dead and yet living while the rich man’s brothers are still living on earth. The resurrection had not yet taken place, thus suggesting an intermediate state where the man has both a body (which is buried at this time) and a spirit.

Likewise, while on the cross, Jesus tells the repentant thief next to him that “today” the thief would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:42-43). Such language implies an intermediate state. After all, in spite of many other attempts to redefine the word, “today” means today. That day both Jesus and the thief would be in paradise even though their physically lifeless bodies remained on the earth decaying.[6]

Then there is the question of where Jesus was between His death and resurrection.  The language to the thief on the cross clearly implies that between Friday and Sunday, Jesus’ Spirit was separated for a time from His body.  This point is critical to understand as the cross and resurrection becomes the catalyst by which the Apostle Paul lays out his eschatology of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Just as Jesus’ Spirit was separated from His body after His death and prior to His resurrection, so will we. At our death, our spirits and bodies are separated for a temporary time only to be reunited at the resurrection.

But there is another important point to be made here. Christians have always affirmed that Jesus is both God and man (the Hypostatic Union). At the Incarnation Jesus did not cease being God, but in the mystery of the incarnation, He took on flesh. Monism risks heresy when the question of where Jesus was between His death and resurrection is raised.  Monism denies the soul thus leading to the conclusion that when Jesus died, He literally ceased to exist and yet Scripture is clear that God is eternal and always has and always will exist.[7] 

The same message of dualism continues beyond the Gospels.[8]  In Acts 23:6-8 Paul, a former Pharisee, claims that he was on trial due to his belief about the resurrection. Luke then juxtaposes the views of the Pharisees with the Sadducees noting that the latter reject the resurrection, angels, and an immaterial soul. Luke makes clear that Paul sided with the Pharisees thus affirming his belief in angels, the resurrection, and the soul.

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul lays out his view regarding the resurrection. As mentioned above, the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to Paul’s understanding of our resurrection. In verse 51-52 Paul notes that the resurrection is a future event which will occurred after a time of “sleep.”  Furthermore, this resurrection is not individualistic, but will involve all believers. The monists argue the opposite. Because they affirm that the resurrection happens immediately after death, they argue that resurrection is an individual event, but Paul argues here and elsewhere (see particularly 1 Thess. 4:13-18) argues that it will be a corporal event.[9]

Consider also 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 where Paul describes his visions of the “third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body” (vs. 2). Paul reaffirms in the next verse that he “was caught up into paradise” either “in the body or out of the body” (vs. 3). Clearly, Paul affirmed the possibility of a temporal disembodied existence.

Again, more passages from the New Testament could be cited in support of anthropological dualism and the intermediate state and for centuries Christians have pointed to these texts to defend their position.[10]  What is missing from this very brief survey is any mention of the Old Testament and it is here where many monists point to defend their view. Certainly there are plenty of passages in the Old Testament that promote dualism, there is no doubt that the clearest dualistic language is in the New Testament.[11]  Monists who spend their time in the Old Testament must first deal with these clear texts.

In summary, these texts clearly teach that man is made up of both a body and a soul.

[1]  This does not mean that every Christian throughout history has affirmed the belief in an immaterial soul. Certainly one could easily collect a list of theologians and Christians who were monists.  The point here is that the view held by far by Christians throughout the centuries has favored the belief in an immaterial soul.
[2]  In The City of God, Augustine commends one of his characters for “regarding man as neither the soul alone nor the body alone but the combination of body and soul” Furthermore, in his book On the Immorality of the Soul, Augustine notes that “the soul is present as a whole not only in the entire mass of a body, but also in every least part of the body at the same time.” Regarding Augustine’s anthropology, theologian John Cooper notes, “Augustine’s anthropology is a two-substance dualism.  Human beings are composed of spirit and matter intimately conjoined so that the soul permeates and animates the entire body.  Whereas the body depends for its existence and activity upon the soul, the reverse is not true.  Augustine’s view of the human constitution dominated Christian thought in the West unchallenged until the thirteenth century, as did his views on many theological topics.”  As quoted in John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 11.  Ibid.  It should also be pointed out that though Augustine had been a Platonist, it is an oversimplification to contribute Augustine’s anthropology to just Platonism.  Cooper points out that in contrast to Plato, Augustine “criticizes Platonism for holding that souls are not created but are by nature self-sufficient and have existed eternally.  And he rejects the opinion that the body is intrinsically antithetical to the good.  These Platonic doctrines,” Cooper emphasis, “directly contradict the teachings of Scripture.”  Though much of Augustine’s theology “is recognizably Platonistic” it is simply inaccurate to limit Augustine’s view solely on Platonism.  Ibid., 10.
[3]  In his famous work, Summa Theologica, Aquinas plainly states that man “is composed of a spiritual and a corporeal substance.”  Cooper notes that “this is clearly a two-substance dualism in line with Augustine.”  Ibid., 12.
[4]  Calvin clearly states in his Institutes that “there can be no question that man consists of a body and a soul.”  John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion trans. Henry Beveridge, revised (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 104.  Furthermore, in his book Psychopannychia, Calvin argues against soul-sleep defending the intermediate state and dualism.
[5]  Question and Answer 57 asks how the resurrection of the body comforts the believer?  The answer given is, “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but even my flesh, raised by the power of Christ will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.”  As quoted in Cooper, Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting, 15.
[6]  Monists have tried to redefine the meaning of “today” throughout the years in order to avoid this clear conclusion. Instead of an objective time, some have suggested Jesus is speaking subjectively.  In other words, though it would seem like they would be in paradise “today” in reality it would be in the future. After all, eternity is without time and thus to speak of eternity in time-filled language is inaccurate. Others have made similar attempts but all of them are equally impossible.  See Ibid., 140.
[7]  Making this same argument, John Cooper argues, “Now if the extinction-re-creation account of Jesus’ resurrection is true, then the teaching of Chalcedon is false.  The two natures of Christ are separable and were in fact separated between good Friday and Easter Sunday.  The human being Jesus completely ceased to exist.  For on the monist-holist view motivating the extinction-re-creation theory, persons are essentially linked to their organisms.  Bodily death is complete death.  Persons do not survive.  So the divine-human person Jesus Christ did not exist for the interim.  Only the nonincarnate Word, the wholly divine Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, existed during that time. What occurred on Easter is essentially the same as the miracle of Christmas.  Once again the Word became flesh, this time resurrection flesh.  We do not have an incarnation and something essentially different – a resurrection – in the life of Christ, but two incarnations.  If the extinction-re-creationists are consistent, they seem closer to the heresies which Chalcedon rejected than to orthodox Christology itself.  For either the human nature of the Son is incidental even after his incarnation and was nonexistent for three Jewish days; or else we have two persons in Jesus Christ, a divine person who continued to exist and a human person who did not.  Neither option would have escaped condemnation at Chalcedon.”  Ibid., 145.
[8]  For more texts in the Gospels that support dualism see Matthew 10:28 (parallel in Mark 8:36-37); Matthew 16:26; Matthew 27:50 (pneuma); Luke 12:20; and John 19:30 to name a few.  Consider particularly Luke 23:46 (peneuma) where Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 (LXX uses peneuma). Jesus is clearly speaking in dualistic terms here and seems to have a dualistic interpretation of Psalm 31.
[9]  See Ibid., 152-155.
[10]  Consider for example Acts 7:59 (pneuma); 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 1:21-24 (note Paul language of remaining in his body).
[11]  Consider for example, Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21; Ecclesiastes 12:7; and Isaiah 53:12 among others.  These passages, among many others from the Old Testament, suggest anthropological dualism.

All Around the Web - May 24, 2016

Justin Taylor - Walker Percy’s 1981 Letter to the New York Times on the Con and Doublespeak of the Abortion Discussion

Russell Moore - Signposts: What We Miss in Our Sexual Purity Teaching

Bill Mounce - Getting to the Heart of Atonement

John Stonestreet - Google and Yuri Kochiyama

The Blaze - See What’s Happened to Target’s Stock in the Past Month Amid Transgender Bathroom Uproar

New Scientist - Green light found to ease the pain of migraine

Monday, May 23, 2016

"What Can I Do With My Guilt?" by RC Sproul: A Review

The simple truth is that if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That's an objective state of affairs. Maybe our friends will not forgive us. Maybe our spouses will not forgive us. Maybe society will not forgive us. Maybe the government will not forgive us. But if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That doesn’t mean that we were never guilty. We cannot have forgiveness without real guilt. But forgiveness releases us from the punishment that we justly deserve because of our guilt. Through it, we can be restored to a healthy and loving relationship with God.

It is a universal experience among humans: guilt. Thus, how we handle guilt is of great importance. Religions around the world offer a number of various answers, rituals, and ideas. Such traditions place much faith on personal works, ritualism, and moralism. Secularism seeks for answers in psychology and victimization. Guilt implies the existence of sin. As a result, many have tried to mythologize sin and thus dissolve guilt altogether.

But none of it works. Whether we are guilty of sin or we are sinned against, guilt and shame are ours nevertheless. When it comes to the issue of guilt and shame I believe Christianity shines and has a message that will speak to people around the world.

This is why I turned to RC Sproul's short book What Can I Do With My Guilt? (free Kindle download here). Sproul is a well-established and respected theologian and writer. His "Crucial Questions" series is a series of short books (I read this volume in one setting) that addresses important questions of the faith.

Key to Sproul's argument here is the objective and subjective nature of guilt. Here he helpfully differentiates between guilt and guilt feelings. Once the reality of guilt is established, Sproul lays out the hope of the gospel in how it addresses our guilt - chiefly forgiveness. Ultimately, the only way guilt can be remove is for the cause of guilt to be forgiven and only God can do that. Antinomians might label sin a myth, secularists may turn to therapy, and legalists may turn to moralism, but none of it washes away our sin.

My one criticism is minor. It is critical that Christians emphasize both forgiveness and cleansing as it relates to our sin. We are not merely given a clean slate, but a new heart. Sproul discusses the cleansing power of the gospel but does not make it center stage. This is a real weakness. My criticism is not to suggest that Sproul denies it, but that it did not receive the attention it deserved. In addressing guilt, we need both propitiation and expiation. This brief volume did not emphasize the latter, I believe, enough. 

Overall, however, this is a helpful book at a really good price (again, its free on Kindle). It is written at the popular level and thus can be understood by all believers. 

For more:
Free eBooks: RC Sprul's Crucial Questions Series Books
"Everyone's a Theologian" by RC Sproul: A Review

All Around the Web - May 23, 2016

The Atlantic - Should Women Be Able to Abort a Fetus Just Because It’s Female?

Washington Times - New York businesses face hefty penalties for ‘misgendering’ customers

The Gospel Coalition - How Do I Preach Expository Sermons from Proverbs?

Ron Edmondson - 7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

Thom Rainer - Five Questions Prospective Pastors Rarely Ask Search Committees (But Should)

The Wally Show - Hear What tobyMac Thinks About the DC Talk Jesus Freak Cruise

Friday, May 20, 2016

Five Books to Read this Election Year

Several weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Trevin Wax, provided a helpful list of books one should consider reading this political season. After giving it some thought, I thought I would provide a similar list.

1. Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

At the top of the list is Russell Moore's book on political engagement. Moore is one of the best writers and thinkers in modern evangelicalism and Onward reads unlike any other evangelical political book I have ever encountered. If you read one book on politics and culture, read this one.

Read my review here.

2. Seeking the City: Wealth, Poverty, and Political Economy in Christian Perspective by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt  

A few years ago I blogged through this excellent work exploring economics, politics, and the rest. The authors survey both biblical and historic theology and provide a robust Christian perspective on such issues. The writing is excellent and though it is more of an academic work, it is still largely written at a popular level.

Read the blog series here.

3. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg  

I will admit the cover and title of Jonah Goldberg's historic survey drew me to "pick up and read." I still believe that for those sympathetic to his argument, this is the best book cover ever made. The title does say it all. Beginning with Mussolini and Hitler, Goldberg traces the modern liberal movement showing that it is a fascist movement. He surveys figures like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Margaret Sanger, Hillary Clinton, and others. I include this work because it is a historic survey of the dominant political worldview of the elites. Goldberg unveils who they really are. 

4. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes 

The best biography on my favorite president. I believe we need another Calvin Coolidge to lead our nation. Coolidge was tight with both his money and the American people's money. He stood against the tide of American progressivism and led America through a very prosperous time. I believe that the Great Depression that followed his administration was not due to his policies but in rejecting them. The two presidents that served after Coolidge intervened in the economy and made the situation worse.

Read my review here.

5. Letters to a Young Conservative by Dinesh D'Souza

Though I do not agree with everything D'Souza argues here, he offers a helpful introduction on conservative politics. It is a little dated, but D'Souza is a good apologists (at least when he uses his pen) for the conservative cause. This short book was helpful for me when I was considering the political ideology of conservatism.

All Around the Web - May 20, 2016

National Review - President Obama’s Transgender Proclamation Is Far Broader and More Dangerous than You Think

National Review - From 1970s-Era Academic ‘High Theory’ to Transgender Bathrooms on Campus

Canon and Culture - Little Sisters, Big Decision

Kevin DeYoung - A Transgendered Thought Experiment

Trevin Wax - 5 Shifts in Church Planting in the Last 10 Years

Sam Storms - John 1:1 and the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Tim Challies - 7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Our Children

Some language

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rest for Your Soul: An Example of Solid Exposition

One of my favorite preachers is Alistair Begg who ministers in Cleveland, OH. Next to maybe John MacArthur, I consider Begg to be one of the best exegetes still preaching today. In the following sermon taken from Hebrews 4:1-13 entitled "Rest for Your Soul," Begg models robust exegesis that goes beyond commentary. For young preachers, I recommend you learn from Begg's example here.

All Around the Web - May 19, 2016

Russell Moore - Four Lessons from the Little Sisters of the Poor Case

USA Today - Supreme Court sends 'contraceptive mandate' cases back to lower courts

Crossway - 10 Things You Should Know about Abortion

Baptist21 - Interview with SBC Presidential Candidates: Part One, David Crosby

CBS Philly - Going To Church Could Help You Live Longer, Study Says

The Washington Post - Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class

Sean McDowell - Are Christians Narrow-minded? 2 Minute Video Response.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Danger of the New Monism: Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 1

The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 1
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 2
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 3
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 4c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5a
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5b
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 5c
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Part 6
The Danger of the New Monism:  Fidelity to Science, Infidelity to the Gospel - Complete Series

What follows is a series of posts regarding the New Monist movement which combines neuroscience with theology and argues that science has "proven" we have no soul.  The problem I have with such a suggestion isn't just the challenge it presents anthropologically, but soteriologically. How does denying the existence of our soul affect our understanding of the gospel? That's one of the questions I hope to answer.  This debate is another example of the challenge that science can present for Christian theology.

Since the dawn of modernism, the debate over the relation between the empirical sciences and theology has been in constant friction. The debate, at least in popular culture, almost always centers on Darwinian evolution and the biblical creation. For over a century and a half, some Christians have sought to blend the trend of evolution in science and the biblical message while others embrace either evolution in their fidelity to science or young-earth creationism in their fidelity to revealed Scripture.

But the debate between science and Scripture is not limited to the question of origins, but also of the mind. If biology, astronomy, and other sciences promote a view of origins contrary to Scripture then what about the science of the brain?  In recent decades, advances in neuroscience has mounted an assault on the traditional biblical doctrine of dualism – that we are both a body (material) and a soul/spirit (immaterial). Many scientists and well-meaning Christians who have embraced the direction of neuroscience are beginning to more loudly proclaim that humans do not consist of two parts – the material and the immaterial – but only one (material only)

Some materialists use the language of mechanics to describe persons thus making man nothing more than the byproduct of his genes robbing man of any freedom or responsibility.  Such a worldview is clearly contrary to the gospel and Scripture.[1]  Others, however, affirm persons as a holistic self without a soul whose entire self/body is controlled solely by the brain and yet retain some form of free will and responsibility.  This latter view (that we are a holistic body) has a variety of names, but each (though slightly different) are similar in many ways. One of the more prominent views, promoted by persons like Nancey Murphy, is called Nonreductive Physicalism.  It is nonreductive in the sense that the rejection of the soul ought not to be reduced to the belief that we are simply mechanistic beings.  “Physicalism” is preferred to “materialism” due to the implications of such a term.  Materialism is usually associated with extreme, Darwinian atheism.  Nonreductive physicalism is just one of countless other views in which argues that man is not body and spirit, but a material, holistic self.[2]  Since these views are unified in their monism, I have referred to them as a whole as the new monism movement.

The reason all of this is important is not because the new monism movement, based primarily on neuroscience, threatens traditional Christian anthropology, but because such a belief threatens the fundamental doctrine of salvation. Like most doctrines, to tweak, deny, or redefine one doctrine (like Christology, Theology Proper, harmitology, Bibliology, or, in this case, anthropology) is to tweak, deny, or redefine the gospel. It is imperative that Christians engage theological issues with this fundamental truth in mind. If a certain doctrine, particularly a core central doctrine, is misunderstood it will directly affect one’s view of soteriology. In the case of the new monism, if one rejects the existence of an immaterial soul, then their understanding of salvation will be greatly inhibited and are likely to embrace heretical doctrines.

In this paper, I seek to show that many of those who have embraced monism in this manner have, whether directly or indirectly, have abandoned the gospel. As it will be shown below, though few take the atonement and soteriology seriously (namely Joel B. Green) most undermine the gospel by embracing a here and now message with little said in regards to sin, hell, judgment, propitiation, the atonement, or salvation. The simple fact is that thus far in the movement, few have considered this issue in great detail, but when they do speak regarding salvation, they always error on the side of heresy.  Furthermore, it will be shown that a more biblical understanding of anthropology is necessary for an accurate understanding of the gospel.

[1]  Consider for example atheist Daniel Dennet who wrote, “One widespread tradition has it that we human beings are responsibility agents captains of our fate, because we really are souls, immaterial and immortal clumps of Godstuff that inhabit and control our material bodies rather like spectral puppeteers. It is our souls that are the source of all meaning, and the locus of all our suffering, our joy, our glory and shame. But this idea of immaterial souls, capable of defying the laws of physics, has outlived its credibility thanks to the advance of the natural sciences. Many people think the implications of this are dreadful: We don’t really have ‘free will’ and nothing really matters.”  Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves (New York: Viking, 2003), 1 and quoted in Ed. Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer, In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 115.
[2]  For a brief discussion for some of the other views including emergentism and material constitutionism see John W. Cooper, “The Current Body-Soul Debate: A Case for Dualistic Holism,” SBJT 13.2 (2009): 32-34.  See also Green, Palmer, and Corcoran, In Search Of The Soul for more examples in detail of the different views.

All Around the Web - May 17, 2016

Trevin Wax - 4 Bigger Repercussions of the Bathroom Decree

Andrew Walker - Transgender Groupthink isn’t the Future, it’s Now

Wayne Grudem - What’s Systematic Theology and Why Bother?

John Stonestreet - Spare the Chair, Spoil the Child

The Guardian - Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away

Monday, May 16, 2016

"A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 3" by Allen Ross: A Review

One of the better commentary on the Psalms I have come across is without a doubt Allen P. Ross's three-volume set. The third volume, simply entitled A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150), completes this helpful set. Like the other volumes in the Psalm set, Ross introduces each Psalm and provides a full translation with detailed notes on the Hebrew text. Afterward, he "comments" on the psalm providing key insight for the reader. 

When it comes to commentaries, most are either technical or accessible. This commentary set, and the others in this series, lean on the technical side especially as it relates to the interpretation of the Hebrew text. Ross uses Hebrew letters and terms and thus unless one is educated in the language, much of the commentary will be difficult to utilize. 

Length does not allow a full treatment of some of Ross conclusions. A reason, however, why I enjoy this series is seen how Ross concludes each Psalm with a discussion on its message and application. One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 148, Ross concludes with these words:
The message and application of this psalm is straightforward, like the other psalms in this grand doxology to the collection: Everything in the heavens above and everything on earth below must display the glory of God and praise him forever, especially for his redemption and renewal of his people. The psalm brings forward the creation hymns that display God's glory in creation, first in the heavens and then on the earth. The listing of aspects of creation prompt the worshiper to think of the details and other aspects of each category, for praise is endless when we consider the works of his hands. But the psalm culminates in the greatest reason for praise, the greatness demonstrated in his grace - he has redeemed and restored his people, and they in all creation are close to him. This psalm, indeed all these final psalms, have a number of parallels with the great hymns in heaven recorded in Revelation 4 and 5, particularly in the major causes for praise: creation and redemption. (949)
Overall, I recommend this book and Ross' other volumes in this set. If your looking for a good commentaries series on the Psalms, this is one you should consider picking up.

This book was given to me courtesy of Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

For more:
"A Commentary on the Psalms" by Allen Ross: A Review

All Around the Web - May 16, 2016

Russell Moore - What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means For You

Joe Carter -  From Agender to Ze: A Glossary for the Gender Identity Revolution 

Canon and Culture - Abortion and the Problem of Personhood

Denny Burk - President Obama: Accept Transgenderism or Else

Thom Rainer - Nine Ways Your Church Can Use Twitter on Sundays

The Gospel Coalition - 15 Discernment Diagnostics

Russell Moore - Why Christians Must Speak With Kindness

Friday, May 13, 2016

Christian Values and Normal America

From Russell Moore's book Onward:
I thought about my unbelieving college friend a while back, as I was having another conversation with an atheist, this time a lesbian progressive activist in a major urban cultural center. She wanted to talk to me because evangelical Christianity piqued her interest, as a sociological phenomenon. She was most interested in our sexual ethic, and peppered me with questions about why we thought certain things were sinful. We had a respectful, civil conversation, though she couldn’t help but laugh out loud several times when I articulated viewpoints quite commonplace not only in historic Christianity but in Judaism and, for that matter, Islam. She said I was the first person she’d ever actually talked to who believed that sexual expression ought only to take place within marriage, and that I was the only person she’d ever met in real life who thought that marriage could only happen with the union of a man to a woman. She said that if she ever met anyone who had seen someone for more than three or four weeks, without having sex, she would not first assume that this person had some sort of religious conviction, but rather that this person must bear the psychological scars of some sort of traumatic abuse. She followed this up by saying, “So do you see how strange what you’re saying sounds to us, to those of us out here in normal America?”

Before I could answer, I was distracted by those two words: “normal America.” How things had turned around. Most of the people in the pews of my church back home would consider themselves to be normal America.” They would view this woman—with her sexual openness and her dismissal of monogamy—as part of some freakish cultural elite, out of touch with “traditional values.” But I suspect she’s right. More and more, she represents the moral majority in this country, committed to “family values” of personal autonomy and sexual freedom. She is normal, now.

She snapped me out of my daydreaming by asking again, “Seriously, do you know how strange this sounds to me?” I smiled and said, “Yes, I do. It sounds strange to me too. But what you should know is, we believe even stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is going to show up in the sky, on a horse.” (10)
"Onward Christian strangers."

All Around the Web - May 13, 2016

ERLC - Are restroom laws that respect privacy the equivalent of Jim Crow laws?

Thom Rainer - Ten Things You Should Know about Generation Z

Jason Allen - Eight Tips for Beginning Preachers

Tim Challies - A Secret Way to Kick-Start Your Theological Library

Washington Times - Harvard professor: Start treating Christian conservatives like Nazis

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Major Mistake Search Committees and Candidates Make

It was not long ago I was a candidate at several churches around the country for the office of senior pastor. The search process is stressful on both the church and the candidate. No one enjoys the process, but it is a necessary one. Now I'm on the other end of the spectrum helping our association search for a new Director of Missions.

In the years leading up to our transition and in the time since, I have counseled several candidates and churches and in my experience both sides make the same mirror mistake. Whether a church's experience with its previous pastor was positive or negative, most search committees judge potential candidates by their previous pastor(s). For example, if they were shepherded by a pastor who was more of a preacher than a visiting pastor and that experience was negative, the committee (and the church they represent) will look for the polar opposite. Or if they enjoyed the preaching of their previous pastor, they will likely pursue candidates who are carbon copies of him.

Candidates do the same thing. If a pastor had a poor experience at their previous church, they will pursue churches that are radically different. This explains how many pastors will swing between rural and metropolitan churches or between blue collar and white collar churches.

This approach can be dangerous for one obvious reason. By living in fear or even hope of our past we take our eyes off of what Jesus is doing now. A church critical of their previous pastor will fail to appreciate how God used him and thus will run the risk of swinging to the other extreme and find it just as disappointing. A pastor who allows his negative emotions to control him will bypass perfectly good churches worth their consideration.

The solution to this should be equally obvious: turn to Scripture and follow Christ. Churches must rediscover what a pastor actually is and pursue that candidate regardless of their previous shepherds. Candidates should rediscover the joy of ministry and pursue a congregation they can love and lead.

I am confident that if we learned this lesson our churches will be the better for it.

For more:
Moving Forward: Lessons Learned as a Pastor in Limbo
What Pastors Wish Search Committees Knew
It Goes Both Ways: Pastor Leadership and Church Submission
Two Types of Pastors: Lessons Learned from Presidential Leadership
4 Things to Look For in a Church
Hard Decisions SBC Churches Must Make Less They Die