Friday, July 29, 2016

"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 1

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppression of the Present Day published in 1773.


Inasmuch as there appears to us a real need of such an appeal, we would previously offer a few thoughts concerning the general nature of liberty and government, and then shew wherein it appears to us, that our religious rights are encroached upon in this land.
It is supposed by multitudes, that in submitting to government we give up some part of our liberty, because they imagine that there is something in their nature incompatible with each other. But the word of truth plainly shews, that man first lost his freedom by breaking over the rules of government; and that those who now speak great swelling words about liberty, while they despise government, are themselves servants of corruption. What a dangerous error, yea, what a root of all evil then must it be, for men to imagine that there is any thing in the nature of true government that interferes with true and full liberty! A grand cause of this evil is, ignorance of what we are, and where we are; for did we view things in their true light, it would appear to be as absurd and dangerous, for us to aspire after any thing beyond our capacity, or out of the rule of our duty, as it would for the frog to swell till he bursts himself in trying to get as big as the ox, or for a beast or fowl to dive into the fishes element till they drown themselves. Godliness with contentment is great gain: But they that will take a contrary course fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 1 Tim. 6. 6, 9.
The true liberty of man is, to know, obey and enjoy his Creator, and to do all the good unto, and enjoy all the happiness with and in his fellow-creatures that he is capable of; in order to which the law of love was written in his heart, which carries in it's nature union and benevolence to being in general, and to each being in particular, according to it's nature and excellency, and to it's relation and connexion to and with the supreme Being, and ourselves. Each rational soul, as he is a part of the whole system of rational beings, so it was and is, both his duty and his liberty to regard the good of the whole in all his actions. To love ourselves, and truly to seek our own welfare, is both our liberty and our indispensible duty; but the conceit that man could advance either his honor or happiness, by disobedience instead of obedience, was first injected by the father of lies, and all such conceits ever since are as false as he is.
Before man imagined that submission to government, and acting strictly by rule was confinement, and that breaking over those bounds would enlarge his knowledge and happiness, how clear were his ideas! (even so as to give proper names to every creature) and how great was his honor and pleasure! But no sooner did he transgress, than instead of enjoying the boldness of innocency, and the liberties of paradise, he sneaks away to hide himself; and instead of clear and just ideas, he adopted that master of all absurdities (which his children follow to this day) of thinking to hide from omniciency, and of trying to deceive him who knows every thing! Instead of good and happiness, he felt evil, guilt and misery; and in the room of concord was wrangling, both against his Creator and his fellow-creature, even so that she who was before loved as his own flesh, he now accuses to the great Judge. By which it appears, that the notion of man's gaining any dignity or liberty by refusing an intire submission to government, was so delusive, that instead of it's advancing him to be as gods, it sunk him down into a way of acting like the beasts and like the devil! the beasts are actuated by their senses and inclinations, and the devil pursues his designs by deceit and violence. With malicious reflections upon God, and flattering pretences to man, he drew him down to gratify his eyes and his taste with forbidden fruit: and he had no sooner revolted from the authority of heaven, than the beauty and order of his family was broken; he turns accuser against the wife of his bosom, his first son murders the next, and then lies to his Maker to conceal it; and that lying murderer's posterity were the first who broke over the order of marriage which God had instituted; and things proceeded from bad to worse, till all flesh had corrupted his way, and the earth was filled with violence, so that they could no longer be borne with, but by a just vengeance were all swept away, only one family.
Yet all this did not remove the dreadful distemper from man's nature, for the great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood, gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another while the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, so that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually. Observe well where the distemper lies; evil imaginations have usurped the place of reason and a well informed judgment, and hold them in such bondage, that instead of being governed by those noble faculties, they are put to the horrid drugery of seeking out inventions, for the gratification of fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; and to guard against having these worst of all enemies detected and subdued; enemies which are so far from being God's creatures, that strictly speaking, they have no being at all in themselves, only are the privation of his creatures well-being; therefore sin, with it's offspring death, will, as to those who are saved, be swallowed up in victory. Sin is an enemy both to God and man, which was begotten by satan, and was conceived and brought forth by man; for lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.
Now how often have we been told, that he is not a freeman but a slave, whose person and goods are not at his own but anothers disposal? And to have foreigners come and riot at our expence and in the fruit of our labours, has often been represented to be worse than death. And should the higher powers appear to deal with temporal oppressors according to their deserts, it would seem strange indeed, if those who have suffered intolerably by them, should employ all their art and power to conceal them, and so to prevent their being brought to justice! But how is our world filled with such madness concerning spiritual tyrants! How far have pride and infidelity, covetousness and luxury, yea deceit and cruelty, those foreigners which came from hell, carried their influence, and spread their baneful mischiefs in our world! Yet who is willing to own that he has been deceived and enslaved by them? Who is willing honestly to bring them forth to justice! All acknowledge that these enemies are among us, and many complain aloud of the mischiefs that they do; yet even those who lift their heads so high as to laugh at the atonement of Jesus, and the powerful influences of the Spirit, and slight public & private devotion, are at the same time very unwilling to own that they harbour pride, infidelity, or any other of those dreadful tyrants. And nothing but the divine law refered to above, brought home with convincing light and power, can make them truly sensible of the soul-slavery that they are in: and 'tis only the power of the gospel that can set them free from sin, so as to become the servants of righteousness: can deliver them from these enemies, so as to serve God in holiness all their days. And those who do not thus know the truth, and have not been made free thereby, yet have never been able in any country to subsist long without some sort of government; neither could any of them ever make out to establish any proper government without calling in the help of the Deity. However absurd their notions have been, yet they have found human sight and power to be so short and weak, and able to do so little toward watching over the conduct, and guarding the rights of individuals, that they have been forced to appeal to heaven by oaths, and to invoke assistance from thence to avenge the cause of the injured upon the guilty. Hence it is so far from being necessary for any man to give up any part of his real liberty in order to submit to government, that all nations have found it necessary to submit to some government in order to enjoy any liberty and security at all.
We are not insensible that the general notion of liberty, is for each one to act or conduct as he pleases; but that government obliges us to act toward others by law and rule, which in the imagination of many, interferes with such liberty; though when we come to the light of truth, what can possibly prevent it's being the highest pleasure, for every rational person, to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, but corruption and delusion? which, as was before noted, are foreigners and not originally belonging to man. Therefore the divine argument to prove, that those who promise liberty while they despise government are servants of corruption is this; For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 2 Pet. 2. 18, 19. He is so far from being free to act the man, that he is a bond slave to the worst of tyrants. And not a little of this tyranny is carried on by such an abuse of language, as to call it liberty, for men to yield themselves up, to be so foolish, disobedient and deceived, as to serve divers lusts and pleasures. Tit. 3. 3.
Having offered these few thoughts upon the general nature of government and liberty, it is needful to observe, that God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government. And tho' we shall not attempt a full explanation of them, yet some essential points of difference between them are necessary to be mentioned, in order truly to open our grievances.

All Around the Web - July 29, 2016

Russell Moore - Why Tax-Funded Abortion Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue

Russell Moore - Religious liberty for all

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about Thomas Aquinas

Evangelical History - Is Segregation Scriptural? A Radio Address from Bob Jones on Easter of 1960

Joe Carter - What King David Can Teach Us About Overcoming Political Anxiety

The Guardian - I am a Muslim doctor. I saved a Christian in Pakistan and it nearly cost me my life

Matt Capps - 5 Reasons Christians Neglect Beauty in Theology

Chuck Lawless - 14 Things Leaders Tend to Forget

Books at a Glance - Listen in as Four Theologians Discuss the Trinity Debate

Christianity Today - Died: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy

Baptist21 - Until All Have Heard: A Conversation with Page, Mohler, Akin, and Platt

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

From Luther's Pen: Where is Your Sin?

From What Luther Says:
Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.

All Around the Web - July 27, 2016

Albert Mohler - Religious Liberty and the Right to be Christian

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About the Republican Party Platform

Hershael York - Preacher’s Toolkit: How Long Should My Sermons Be?

NAMB - Five ways to engage: the city

Pew Research Center - Churchgoing Republicans, once skeptical of Trump, now support him

Justin Taylor - (Perhaps) The Most Insightful Interview You’ll Read This Election Year

Truth with Love - How Skipping Church Affects Our Children

Alister McGrath - Understanding Seeking Faith

The Gospel Coalition - Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers

Evangelical History - An FAQ on America as a “City on a Hill”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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 - 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.


The point should be clear.  The gospel that results from this new definition of human nature is not the gospel of Scripture or of traditional Christianity. With little regard as to how monism affects our understanding of the cross, the atonement, the person and work of Christ, sin, and salvation, one must reject this new monistic movement as a movement driven more by science than by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What orthodox, dualistic believers need to do in response is not to change their theology to fit the supposed implications of neuroscience, but to fully and more completely articulate the gospel as revealed in Scripture. Rising conversations regarding holistic dualism is helpful and ought to increase as believers emphasize more than just life after death but also life before death. The gospel affects both. What the new monists are pushing and the direction they are heading will emphasize, almost exclusively, to this life here and now at the cost of the next. As a result, concepts like reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, and justification will become back-burner issues at best or openly rejected at worse.

Though the new monistic movement is still in its infancy, we can already determine where it will end up by adulthood. It is already undermining the gospel in its fidelity to science. It seems, then, that the battle many Christians have been fighting over the fidelity of the gospel against the rise of science is not limited to the debate over evolution but also includes over the implications of neuroscience. Already many well known theologians have abandoned ship in an attempt to be faithful to science rather than faithful to Scripture and the gospel.

All of this is not to suggest that we must choose either-or. If Scripture is inerrant then science will never contradict it. However, many have come to Scripture and orthodox theology with a lot of secular science as baggage and the new monist movement is really no different.

So in the end, though the new monists seek to be faithful to Scripture – so long as their reading of Scripture affirms the finding of science – they have abandoned the gospel in favor of a more popular message more acceptable to the culture it finds itself in.

All Around the Web - July 26, 2016

Canon and Culture - Gender, Marriage, Hell’s Gates, and Your Church Documents

Carl Trueman - Playing with Fire

The Gospel Coalition - How Self-Help Can Become Self-Hurt

Thom Rainer - Seven Ideas for Effective Church Guest Follow-Up

The Cripplegate - Back to the Early Church?

Christian Post - Thousands of Muslims Converting to Christianity in Bangladesh Despite Rising Persecution

CBMW - CBMW Announcement: Denny Burk Named CBMW President

SB Nation - After Duke-UNC and Kentucky-Louisville, what's the best rivalry in college basketball?

Monday, July 25, 2016

"For Women Only" by Shaunti Feldhahn: A Review

At the most basic level, your man wants to be wanted. (93)

Men and women are different. Such a sentence was the equivalent of saying, "water is wet" or "heat is hot," but not anymore. Gender is fluid in postmodern, secular times. So much so "sex" and "gender" are no longer synonymous and the logos on restroom doors are increasingly meaningless. But regardless of popular trends in these confusing times, men and women are different.

While preparing for a sermon on the topic of marriage, I read the book For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn. It has been sitting quietly on my shelf ignored for years (it was given to me) and I finally decided to "pick up and read." I have read countless books on marriage and relationships, but I was particularly interested in seeing what this book, written by a woman, would say to other women about the needs of their husband. I must confess the book was better than I anticipated.

The content of the book is based off of a formal and informal survey done by the author of hundreds of married men in her pursuit to understand them. The author collected that information and in each chapter seeks to help women to better understand their husbands. A reoccurring theme is simply, "Ladies, your husband is different than you."

The author concludes that the husband needs certain things from his wife including: respect, affirmation, attractiveness, intimacy, and even romance.

On the surface, I will say that Feldhahn offers very little new here. As a pastor who has counseled countless engaged and married couples, I have recommended books with similar messages. If each spouse would better understand the needs and ways of the other and serve them (as modeled by Christ at the cross) their marriage would do well (see Ephesians 5). Feldhahn essentially does that here.

Yet what makes this book unique is its focus. As the title suggests, this book is for women about men. She seeks to turn on the proverbial light bulb for wives so that they may understand who their husbands are - weaknesses and all. As a husband I greatly appreciate this approach.

Though I could easily critic a number of things about the book, I ultimately want to praise in particular her chapter on respect, intimacy, and emphasis on our need to be affirmed by our wife. I also want to agree with her that men do not have an ego problem, we have a fear of inadequacy problem.

I conclude by reminding any wives who may be reading this to not underestimate your worth in your marriage. You are valuable and your husband needs you. If you are wanting to become an even better wife, this is a helpful book.

All Around the Web - July 25, 2016

Doug Wilson - Trump Contemplative 

Paul Tripp - The Conversation That Saved My Ministry

The Gospel Coalition - Is God the Father Like My Father?

Eric Metaxas - Unchurched, not Unreachable: Your Friends Are More Open than You Think

ERLC - Religious liberty trouble in California: An interview with the President of Biola Univerity

Thom Rainer - Eight Warning Signs of a Bully Church Member

Chuck Lawless - 10 Characteristics of the Best Bad Church Leaders I’ve Ever Known

The Blaze - Netflix Is Making New Episodes of ‘Making a Murderer’

Saturday, July 23, 2016

All Around the Web - July 23, 2016

Albert Mohler - Religious Liberty and the Right to be Christian

Doug Wilson - 7 Reasons for Cultural Optimism

The Wardrobe Door - Christians Must Embrace the Role of Villain

Joe Carter - Do Churches Contribute to Solving Social Problems?

John Stonesteet - Pokemon Go at the Holocaust Museum: Have We Finally Amused Ourselves to Death?

John Stonestreet - Abuse Isn't Entertainment

Denny Burk - Ross Douthat’s Lament for the GOP…Twitterized

EW - Nickelodeon cartoon Loud House to feature married gay couple

One of my favorite bands growing up was The Juliana Theory. After 11 years, they have released a previously unreleased B-side. You can listen to it below:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

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 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.

A Critique of the New Monistic Soteriology

Where is the blood?
The Persistent Strawman 


The question of the doctrine of sin also arises. For the most part, the new monists discuss sin in the context of free will.[1] Rarely do they offer a theological or biblical exegesis of the doctrine. This is all understandable of course. In their attempt to devoid man of a soul reducing him to neurological impulses and at the same time avoiding reducing man to a mere machine, the new monists are forced to take up the question of free will.

The two examples cited above by Green raise the question of free will. There one man was a sexual pervert seemingly due to a brain tumor while another man become a nuisance following a work-related accident that affects his brain. Such examples, and others can be given, imply that free will is an illusion and that we are simply the byproducts of our genes and brains. Though a full discussion goes beyond the purpose of this paper, suffice it to say that much ink has been used on this issue because it is a difficult one for the new monists to answer.
Nevertheless, their doctrine of sin remains undeveloped and incomplete. However, that does not mean that the new monists have said nothing about sin. One of the fullest treatments is given by Joel Green. In his book Body, Soul, and Human Life, he dedicates an entire chapter to the question of sin and free will splitting the content between the evidence of science and the voice of Scripture. To begin, Green acknowledges the challenge science presents in this area but also rejects any notion of dualism and the answer.[2]

But in the end, Green argues that neuroscience and the New Testament affirm three basic principles.  First, “We do what we are. That is, our behaviors are generated out of, and so reflect, our character and dispositions.” Secondly, “Who we are is both formed and continually being formed socio-culturally and especially relationally.” And finally, “‘Choice’” is contextually determined, especially vis-a-vis ongoing relational influence and self-reflexive contemplation on the bases and futures of past and prospective decisions.”[3]

In his discussion (of which he focuses on Peter, James and Paul), Green denies original sin[4] preferring to understand texts like Romans 5 as suggesting “that Adam’s sin set in motion a chain of effects.” As a result, all have sinned, not because of his natural constitution, but because humanity simply continues to follow “Adam in his sinfulness.”[5]

In addition, Green points out the “virtual absence in Paul of the language of ‘forgiveness of sin.’” As a result, “Sin needs to be addressed, but given Paul’s perspective on  ‘sin’ as less ‘act’ and more ‘disposition’ or compulsion,’ mere forgiveness or absolution is insufficient.” Likewise, to Green, Paul says little to nothing regarding repentance, “after all, the condition of enslavement is not mitigated by repentance on the part of the slave.” What is required, then, “is human change, a theological transformation – a deep-seated conversion in one’s conception of God and, thus, in one’s commitments, attitudes, and everyday practices.” Thus, Paul, at least not in Romans 5-6, does not promise the remission of sins, “but liberation from our enslavement to sin and decay and participation in a new humanity whose home is the new life ushered in by means of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ whose death on the cross comprises one of the most profound visual representations of the character of God.”[6]

What is missing in this discussion is as troubling as what is addressed. By embracing a monistic understanding of human nature and adopting the findings of neuroscience while seeking to find in Scripture a similar worldview, Green undermines the gospel. Certainly the gospel liberates, transforms, and restores. One need not go beyond the Gospels and the ministry of Jesus to witness that. But clearly, what Green promotes here as the remedy of human sinfulness is well short of traditional orthodoxy. While acknowledging that God “takes sin seriously,”[7] by limiting the gospel to just here-and-now, he undermines the need for repentance, forgiveness, and  reconciliation. Transformation, liberation, and restoration cannot take place so long as God and man’s eternal relationship remains broken due to our sin.

In Green’s book, this all leads to a broad discussion of salvation. Like other new monists, Green embraces a salvation that heals and liberates on this earth. For example, he suggests that conversion is not “a single point of decision-making. Instead, conversion is a journey, not an instantaneous metamorphosis.”[8] Likewise, conversion should be seen “as an ongoing process of socialization,” thus “Seen from this vantage point, conversion entails autobiographical reconstruction.” This community is seen primarily in what we may call the church.

Green thus concludes:
Conversion is inseparable from the human experience of embodiment, a reality that undermines claims that conversion is an ‘inner’ change, or that conversion of individual can be understood in individualistic terms, or that conversion might engage one’s intellect but not one’s effect (or vice versa), or that conversion might be pinpointed on a temporal map.
Conversion, then, is a transformation of conceptual scheme – conceptual, conative, and behavioral – by which life is reordered . . . Accordingly, conversion is both gift and response.  Luke’s perspective on conversion thus takes seriously that the first and initiating act is God’s.
Luke’s perspective thus refuses any facile distinctions between conversion as act and process, between cognitive and moral change, between external and internal transformation, between movement from one religion to another and deepening commitment within one’s religion, and between personal and community formation.  ‘To welcome the word,’ as Acts 2:41 ha sit, is a transformative act that places embodied life in a new light, that leads one inexorably into a multiethnic and communal existence with others who incarnate and propagate this vision of God’s restorative purpose, and that cannot but be exhibited in behaviors congruous with the way of Jesus Messiah.[9]
So, then, should Christians feed the soul or feed the hungry?  Should souls or the planet be saved?  Green argues that only in a dualistic world are such questions necessary. But monism, which takes “seriously the message of a salvation oriented toward embodied human life,” does not live in an either-or world.  The inner life should not be “substantively different than,” our outer life.  Likewise, the individual should not be bifurcated from the community. [10]

In simplest of terms: this is not the gospel. This does not mean that feeding the hungry or helping the planet are unnecessary or unneeded, but that our ultimate priority is to proclaim the gospel that redeems man from his sins, reconciles him with his Maker, liberates him from sin, and transforms him to be like his Savior. All of this is the result of belief and repentance based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and resurrection who saves both body and soul. It is a holistic salvation. Such a message more adequately answers the question of feeding the soul or hungry better than the monists. Why not both?  The gospel, as properly understood, is big enough to accomplish both as the history of the Christian Church has shown.[11]

[1] The most complete book on the question of nonreductive physcialism and free will is Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will (New York:  Oxford University Press, USA, 2009).
[2]  Green writes, “Paul Jewett, for example, urged that ‘the choices we make are really free because the will, as a faculty of the spirit, transcends brain functions and therefore is not causally determined.’  By way of response, on the one hand, given the neurobiological evidence regarding decision-making I must admit that it is unclear to me what role a second ontological entity like a soul or spirit would have other than an epiphenomenal one.  On the other, it is worth asking how a biblical theology of sin might look in relation t the neurobiological considerations already outlined.” Green,  Body, Soul, and Human Life, 87-88.
[3]  Ibid., 104.
[4]  He writes, “Earlier, Paul had sketched why this is o, contrasting the deeds of Adam and Jesus Christ (5:12-21).  Through Adam’s disobedience, many were made sinners.  This is not because Paul holds to a doctrine of original sin . . ., a view that owes itself far more to Augustine’s reading of Romans 5:12 than to the apostle himself.”  Ibid., 99-100.
[5]  Ibid., 100.
[6]  Ibid., 102-103.
[7]  Ibid., 101.
[8]  Ibid., 137.
[9]  Ibid., 137-138
[10] Ibid., 138
[11]  As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 134.

All Around the Web - July 19, 2016

Christianity Today - Christians Don't Want to Stop Serving Their LGBT Neighbors

Russell Moore - Signposts: Why I Prefer Books to E-Readers

Thomas Kidd - How Politics and Polls Killed the Term ‘Evangelical’

Thom Rainer - Eight Mistakes Churches Make on Their Websites

Jason Allen - Guest Post: “By the Numbers: What SBC Demographics Tell Us About Our Past, Present, and Future” by Thom S. Rainer

Matt Capps - Pastors, Let Your Deacons Serve

Juicy Ecumenism - Wild Goose Festival: Cosmic Mass, Rethinking Original Sin, & Other Outdoor Fun

Tim Challies - The Perfect Game

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Who's Tampering With the Trinity?"" by Millard Erickson

This issue is not merely an unimportant hairsplitting exercise among ivory-tower thinkers. Potentially it has far-reaching implications for other areas of theology and for the practical life of Christians and of the church. Indeed, if theological conclusions are being driven by what may be primarily nonbiblical considerations, then the doctrine of biblical authority has been compromised, and one may expect to see modifications other doctrines as well. Further, if the view held on this doctrine represents a tendency to depart from the orthodox position in this area, one may expect the departure to increase, as a second generation of theologians in that movement takes the position to its next logical step.

Beyond that, however, there are definite practical issues, How do we worship, and how do we pray? Should praise and prayer be directed only to the Father, through the Son and by the Spirit, as at least some gradationists insist; or should these activities be directed to each member of the Trinity, in relationship to particular areas of their work, as the equivalentists claim? The distinctions fo authority have other, practical distinctions. Should our understanding of the human relations we have mentioned be governed by our conclusion on this doctrine, and if so, what should that conclusion be? (21)

In recent weeks, the theological world, particularly among the Reformed, has been engaged in a heated Trinitarian debate. The accusations have not been over orthodoxy and heterodoxy, though some have made such comments, but over how each Person of the Trinity relates to the others in the Godhead and whether, in particular, the submission, or subordination, of the son is eternal or limited to his ministry on earth.

Though it sounds like theological hairsplitting, and at times it may be, it is not. The implications are crucial and although the debate has been heated recently, this conversation has been ongoing for several years.

In light of these events, I recently picked up a book that has been sitting on my shelf for such a time as this by Millard Erickson, one of my favorite systamticians, entitled Who's Tampering With the Trinity: An Assessment of the Subordination Debate. For theologians interested in this debate, I highly recommend this resource.

Erickson seeks to accomplish two things. First, he surveys the the debate highlighting the arguments, in as fair a way as possible. Secondly, Erickson makes his case for what he perceives the more biblical option.

One of the problems with this debate is deciding on labels and Erickson offers his own suggestion into what the two sides should be called. His terms are appropriate enough and so I will use them in this review. On the one side is the Gradation view which argues that the Son's submission to the Father is eternal. On the other side is what Erickson calls the Equivalence view which argues that the Son's submission to the Father was limited to his ministry on earth. He summarizes both in the following paragraph:
Here then are two quite diametrically opposed positions on one basic issue: the eternal authority relationship of the Father and the Son (and for that matter, the Holy Spirit as well). The former position maintains that eternally the Trinity is characterized by a hierarchical authority structure: the Father is supreme, possessing supreme authority, and the Son and the Holy Spirit obey his commands, or submit themselves to them. The latter position contends that eternally the Trinity is characterized by an equal authority structure in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit possess equal authority with one another and the submission or obedience of the Son and the Spirit to the Father is a temporary functional submission, for the purpose of executing a specific mission of the triune God. (19)
In spite of uncharitable (to put it mildly) comments made toward the Gradationists, Erickson makes it clear that this debate is not a question of orthodoxy. Both views are well within the bounds of biblical Christianity. He writes:
In this case, the disputants are evangelicals and even conservative evangelicals. Both parties hold to the supreme authority, divine inspiration, and the inerrancy of the Bible. They hold to the full deity of Christ, his bodily resurrection and second coming, and salvation by grace. They believe there is one God existing in three persons, and these three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - are, as to their nature or their being, fully and equally God. There is one point of understanding of the Trinity on which the two parties disagree quite strongly, however; namely, the relative authority of the three persons. (17)
As to his second goal in the book, Erickson lands on the side of the Equivalence rather strongly. Much of the book surveys the debate through the lens of Scripture, history, philosophy, and practical theological and in each category, Erickson finds the Gradation view lacking. Regarding these chapters, the historical survey I found largely unhelpful. Erickson will ultimately conclude that the Gradationists are too Eastern in their understanding. Largely, however, it seems that we are, once again, asking a theological question that previous generations did not consider as deeply. The philosophy chapter is difficult for anyone without any real interests in philosophy. For those wanting to grasp a basic understanding of the issues, stick to the chapters on Scripture, theological implications, and practical theology.

I will not interact with all of Erickson's arguments (for a fuller critique, click here). A cursory search online will do that for the reader by more trained and qualified theologians. However, a brief word regarding his conclusion is in order. After stating definitively that both sides "fall within the boundaries of traditional orthodoxy," (257) Erickson warns:
Having said this, however, I do have a concern, and a significant one. Although the stated doctrine of the gradationists is orthodox, I believe that it contains elements that logically imply an unorthodox dimension of the doctrine of the Trinity. I have in mind here the idea of ontological equality combined with the eternal and necessary supremacy of authority of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I have argued in the philosophical chapter, I believe this is an unstable position. For if one member always and everywhere is functionally superior to the other, then there must be an ontological basis for this difference. In other words, while explicitly rejecting the idea of ontological subordination, this view actually implies it and thus contains an implicit ontological subordination. (257)
The author then goes on to share that his concern is not regarding the current generation of Gradationists, but the next generation or two of Gradationists. As is often the case in theology, the generations that follow will slip into dangerous territory the original founder(s) never intended.

Erickson's concern, if I am reading him right, regards the Gradationists emphasis on the distinctions within the trinity. Such an emphasis will have dangerous implications in the future and on that point (and others he makes regarding the Gradationists) I agree. Yet Erickson fails to look at himself in the mirror. The Equivalence are guilty for erring on the other side: equality. The Trinity is an equal-distinction and both must be central to our theology. It seems to me, and perhaps I am wrong, that both sides are making their case to emphasize one over the other.

I do not see this debate as a splitting of hairs, but I do believe we are failing to fully understand the mystery and paradox of Scripture. Could it not be that both sides, to a certain extent, are correct. Could this debate not be similar to the sovereignty-human agency debate where we ultimately have to affirm both by faith? My inclination is to conclude that the Son's submission to the Father is eternal, yet I am not convinced by all of the arguments of the Gradationists and I suspect somewhere in the middle is where we ought to land.

In the end, however, for those wanting to know precisely what this debate is about and is lost in the endless array of blogs and twitter comments, I can think of nowhere better to turn than this volume by Erickson.

For more:
"Making Sense of the Trinity" by Millard Erickson: A Review 

All Around the Web - July 18, 2016

Trevin Wax - Pokémon Go in a Fractured and Flattened world

Kevin DeYoung - How Should I Process the Current Tensions and Violence in Our Country?

Thom Rainer - Seven Things Church Guests Are Telling Us

Tim Challies - 12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry

Evangelical History - A 1991 Conversation with Carl F.H. Henry and Kenneth Kantzer about 20th Century Evangelicalism

Canon and Culture - Obergefell One Year Later: The Difficult Path for Millennials

John Stonestreet - America: Extreme on Abortion

Greenville Online - Perry Noble removed as pastor at NewSpring

Yahoo! Movies - X-Men To Join Avengers? Fox Reportedly Considering Marvel Deal

Friday, July 15, 2016

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Hearers Toy With Preaching

From Spurgeon's sermon "Two Sorts of Hearers":
While preachers too often toy with preaching, how much there is among hearers of the same fashion? Hearing is often merely a critical exercise and the question after a sermon is not, “How was that Truth of God fitted to your case?” but, “How did you like him ?” as if that had anything to do with it! When you hear music, do you ask, “How did you like the trumpet?” No, it is the music —not the instrument— that your mind thinks about! Yet many persons always consider the minister rather than his message. Many contrast one preacher with another when they should contrast themselves with the Divine Law. Thus hearing the Gospel is degraded into a pastime and judged to be little better than a theatrical entertainment.

Such things must not be! Preachers must preach as for eternity and look for fruit —and hearers must carry out what they hear, or otherwise the sacred ordinance of preaching will cease to be the channel of blessing and will rather be an insult to God and a mockery to the souls of men! I shall, not, at great length, but I hope with much earnestness, speak of two classes of hearers— the unblessed class , and the second, the class who according to the text, are blessed in their deed.

All Around the Web - July 15, 2016

Doug Wilson - The Fourth of July in Vanity Fair

Thom Rainer - Ten Traits of the Healthiest Churches Ten Years from Now

Eric Metaxas - The Fake 'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus

The Southern Blog - Homosexuality, Leviticus, and Orlando

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about Race and Racism

The Gospel Coalition - Election 2016: Why Should Evangelicals Even Care Anymore?

Evangelical History - America as a Christian Nation: A Conversation with Mark Noll and George Marsden

Tim Challies - No Bible, No Breakfast

Eric Erickson - Not Everything Is Political With Dr. Russell Moore


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Irony in Exodus 2

One of the important hermeneutic tools of interpreting narratives is irony. The Bible is full of irony and when discovered makes the text even more rich. While preaching through Exodus 1-2, I discovered a number of ironies utilized by the author that really enrich the text. I offer a few of them below.

2:3 - wicker basket

Though this would not be classified as ironic, it is worth mentioning. The word used here is the same word used in Genesis to describe the ark of Noah. The two stories are similar: life is being saved from deadly water by a boat.

2:3 - set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile

The Nile River was the source of life for Egypt. Pharaoh's command to drown the Jewish boys turned it into a river of blood (more irony). Moses's mother obeys Pharaoh by placing Moses in the Nile but instead of killing the child, the great river once again becomes a source of preserving life.

2:3 - set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile

Moses's mother hides her child for three months and then places him in a basket (an ark) and trusts the Nile to protect him. The irony of this is that the Nile is where Jewish babies were being drowned. She trusts, by faith, the Nile will preserve her child.

2:10 - And she named him Moses

The name Moses is defined later in the verse as "drawn out of water" and rightly so. That is what the Hebrew means (as we will see next). Yet there is more to Moses name then the nature of his adoption. Moses in Egyptian means something else - "son of." Compare the names Thutmose and Ahmose. Thutmose means "son of thot" while Ahmose means "son of Iah" 

That's the irony of Moses's name. Who is Moses the son of? His parents are not named until chapter 6 nor is Pharaoh or his daughter named. As the narrative unfolds we discover that Moses must decide if he will be a son of Egypt of a son of Jacob (Israel). The story of slaying of the Egyptian reveals his decision. Furthermore, in chapter 4 God speaks of Israel as his firstborn. Moses, ultimately, is a child of God.

2:10 - Because I drew him out of the water 

Moses is named, we are told, because he was found in the Nile River and drawn out of the water. The reader should not miss the irony. Moses is a Jewish baby swimming in the Nile saved by an Egyptian. Moses was drawn out of the river while the rest of the Jewish male toddlers were drowned in the river.

All Around the Web - July 14, 2016

Carl Trueman - Trouble in Bakersfield

Postmilleniallism Today - ISLAM IS DYING

Christianity Today - Does This New Bill Threaten California Christian Colleges' Religious Freedom?

BP News - New England church plants spark Gospel momentum

Trevin Wax - Christian Music Radio is More Theological Than You Think

Russell Moore - Signposts: How to Plan Now to End Your Ministry Well

Thom Rainer - 3 Ways to Help Our Kids Process Racial Injustice

Tim Challies - Why I Am Not Continuationist

Collider - Listen: J.R.R. Tolkien Reads ‘The Lord of the Rings’

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From Lewis's Pen: Till You Love God

From The Great Divorce:
“‘I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,’ said the Spirit. ‘But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want Someone Else besides Michael. I don’t say ‘more than Michael’, not as a beginning. That will come later. It's only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.’

‘Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment... and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I'll do whatever's necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they'll let me see my boy. I'm quite ready.’

‘But, Pam, do think! Don't you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You're treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning o want God for His own sake.’

‘You wouldn't talk like that if you were a Mother.’

‘You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael's mother only because you first exist as God's creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.’

‘If He loved me He'd let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn't going to say anything about that. But it's pretty hard to forgive, you know.’

‘But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael's sake. . . .’

‘I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life....’

‘Human beings can't make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven't once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery.’

‘When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.’ (98-100)

All Around the Web - July 13, 2016

Joe Carter - Transgender Law Threatens Iowa Churches

John Stonestreet - First They Came for the Florists: The Threat to Pastors' Religious Freedom in Iowa

Trevin Wax - Christians Who Feel Marginalized Should ‘Go Local’

Bruce Ware - Knowing the Self-Revealed God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Guest Post by Bruce Ware

Thinking Christian - 25 Truths Essential To Restoring Our Freedoms

Evangelical History - How Did Jonathan Edwards Preach on Melchizedek, King of Salem?

P & R Books - The 4 Most Popular Ways to Read the Song of Songs

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Strategies for Shortening Your Sermons

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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 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.

A Critique of the New Monistic Soteriology

Where is the blood?

The Persistent Strawman

Monists act as if every dualists only believes that salvation is about the soul and not the body.  Holistic dualism is attractive and although there have been some who have preached an “all soul and no body” message, it is an inaccurate caricature.

This is a false dichotomy.  Monists make it sound as if the dualist lives in a bifurcated world.  Most dualists readily admit and embrace that Scripture speaks in terms of unity. Proverbs 17:22, for example says “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit drives up the bones.” Here both the body (heart) and soul (spirit) are seen in unity. One could also point to the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37; parallels in Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27). This is the language of unity. Instead of discussing what Jesus means by heart, soul, and mind (as some Trichotomists do), it is best to see Jesus’ emphasis on the whole self. “Love the Lord,” Jesus seems to be saying, “with your everything. With all that you are, love the Lord.” Monists are not the only ones who understand this.

Furthermore, the strawman pendulum could swing the other way.  If it is dangerous to emphasize the soul at the cost of the body, it is equally dangerous to emphasize the body at the cost of the soul. In their attempt to not sound like the strawman, they have fallen for the trap.  Like other movements, those who criticize orthodoxy for its emphasis on heaven, many then respond by resorting to the other extreme.  The gospel balances both. Certainly those who preach a gospel that offers nothing more than a get-out-of-hell-free card ought to be criticized, but our response should not be the extreme opposite which says little to nothing about the role of salvation in assuring us heaven after death.

All Around the Web - July 12, 2016

Biblemesh - Transgenderism in the Ancient World

John Stonestreet - The Gospel in the Aftermath of Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights

The Gospel Coalition - Have I Ever Talked to an Angel Without Knowing It?

Sean McDowell - What Are the Best Revisionist Books on the Bible and Homosexuality

Thom Rainer - Six Simple Ways Churches Can Get the Most from Facebook Live

Jason K. Allen - Guest Post: “Southern Baptists in the 21st Century” by Russell Moore

Tim Challies - The Bestsellers: The Jesus Storybook Bible

CNN - What was behind Mary Todd Lincoln's bizarre behavior?

Monday, July 11, 2016

"What Christians Ought to Believe" by Michael Bird: A Review

If you ask me, the Apostles' Creed is probably the best syllabus ever devised for teaching basic Christian beliefs. (13)

There are numerous ways of teaching Christian theology from the academic to the popular. One of the best ways to learn the basics of orthodox Christianity is through the classic creeds of the faith. The most widely recognized creeds is the Apostle's Creed and Michael F. Bird's new book, What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles' Creed (Zondervan, 2016) is a study of Christian theology through a systematic study of this classic creed.

Bird is best known as a New Testament scholar but has written extensively on the subject of theology. Most notably is his 2013 book Evangelical Theology. This book is much briefer and, as the title suggests, teaches Christian theology by walking the reader through the doctrine of this famous creed.

Bird weaves both biblical and historic theology throughout the book. At the same time, he handles any criticism or controversies regarding the creed. In terms of theology, Bird is orthodox and there is little I would find worthy of great critic here. Though each doctrine is only surveyed instead of given a deeper treatment (that is the nature of the book), one could easily nitpick. I would assume many, including myself, would want to tweak some of his conclusions regarding the atonement, but even then I am largely in agreement with him.

In regards to the more difficult parts of the creed, Bird embraces the classic creed whole-heartedly. Most notably here regards Jesus's descent into Hades after his death. Bird embraces this and even interacts with Wayne Grudem's contrary opinion. Bird argues that "there is no line in the creed more misunderstood and more neglected than this one" (143) and thus lays out for the reader precisely what happened on Saturday. My primary concern is whether Scripture is as clear on this point as Bird is. Does Scripture clearly, outside of a single parable told by Jesus in Luke's Gospel, describe Hades as a bifurcated waiting place for the righteous and unrighteous? Does the Bible clearly teach that "Jesus preached the good news of his victory to the wicked in Hades?" (145) Does the Bible clearly teach that "Jesus set the saints of old free from Hades and took them up into heaven?" (145) I'm not so convinced.

Nevertheless, Bird offers an helpful introduction to Christian theology. Although at times the author gets bogged down with academic controversies, he largely writes on the popular level. I would recommend this to most readers interested in theology in general and historic/systematic theology in particular.

All Around the Web - July 11, 2016

The Atlantic - Condoms Don’t Necessarily Help Teen Girls Avoid Pregnancy

New York Times - The Theology of Donald Trump

Christian Audio - Free Download - "The Mingling of Souls"

Church Leaders -  5 Things Newlyweds Must Not Do

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about the Healing Ministry of Jesus

Albert Mohler - Our Fractured Society: A Conversation with Yuval Levin

Ligonier - Announcing Albert Mohler’s “City on a Hill” Tabletalk Column

Lucid Books - 5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Consider Writing a Book

Friday, July 8, 2016

From Lloyd-Jones Pulpit: Love Those To Whom You Preach To

From Martin Lloyd-Jones' classic Preaching and Preachers:
Richard Cecil, an Anglican preacher in London towards the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth said something which should make us all think. To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach is quite another.  The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching. If you lack this element of compassion for the people you will also lack the pathos which is a very vital element in all true preaching. Our Lord looked out upon the multitude and 'saw them as sheep without a shepherd', and was 'filled with compassion'. And if you know nothing of this you should not be in a pulpit, for this is certain to come out in your preaching. We must not be purely intellectual or argumentative, this other element must be there. Not only will your love for the people produce this pathos, the matter itself is bound to do this in and of itself. What can possibly be more moving than a realisation of what God in Christ has done for us?

All Around the Web - July 8, 2016

Happy 10th anniversary to my wife!

The Federalists - California Bill Would Ultimately Erase Religious Schools

OC Register - California's state religion

Albert Mohler - Southern Baptists and the Quest for Theological Identity, by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Get Religion -  The press missed this detail? Pat Summitt took a very timely walk into the waters of baptism

Tim Challies - Why I Am Not Egalitarian

Eric Metaxas - The Story of the Century: Christianity and Islam

The Guardian - Founding Father's home remains unsold two years after entering market

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Bridegroom of Blood: Interpreting Exodus 4:24-26

One of the most bizarre narratives in all of Scripture is undoubtedly Exodus 4:24-26 which tells what happens while Moses and his family were returning to Egypt from Midian. The NASB translates it as follows:
24 Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 So He let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision.
The general interpretation is that Moses had failed to circumcise his son(s) and thus God struck him down with a severe illness that threatened to take his life. Realizing this, Moses calls from his sickbed, or perhaps even his deathbed, and asks his Midian wife Zipporah to circumcise their son thus removing the deadly curse upon him. She did so reluctantly calling him a "bloody bridegroom" and subsequently abandoned Moses not to reappear until Exodus 18.

But what if there is another interpretation? Until I came to this text while preaching expositionally through Exodus, the above was my preferred interpretation, but in his commentary, Dr. Duane Garrett proposes an alternative that I find convincing.

The main debate regards the interpretation of "him" in verse 24. The text lacks an antecedent. Is the "him" Moses, the main character of the book, or Moses' son who is circumcised in the story? The answer to that determines one's conclusion. Garrett takes the latter. He makes his defense in a series of bullet points which I will summarize below.

First, nowhere in the text does God say he tried to kill Moses. In fact, Moses is never explicitly mentioned in the Hebrew text. "Within the confines of this brief episode, there are only three explicit persons: YHWH, Zipporah, and her son. The pronoun 'him' would most likely be read as a prolepsis, pointing forward to Zipporah's son." (226) This technique forces the reader to ask, "Who is God trying to kill?"

Secondly, Genesis 17:14 gives no indication that the father of an uncircumcised male should be "cut of" from his people, only the male himself. Thus there is no basis for Moses to be punished for Gershom not being circumcised.

Thirdly, the boy is identified as Zipporah's son ("her son") not "his son." Had God been attacking Moses, we would expect the latter.

Fourthly, in the text, Moses never tells Zipporah to circumcise their son. The presumption is that she did it freely and thus we should not assume she was angry at her husband.

Fifthly, many translations suggest that Zipporah threw the foreskin at Moses's feet. Yet the Hebrew simply indicates Zipporah simply "touched the 'feet' . . . It does not say or imply that she touched the 'feet' with the foreskin." (227) Garrett also points out that "feet" is often a euphemism in Scripture for the genitals (see Deut. 28:57; Judg. 3:24; Ezek. 16:25) which would make sense regarding circumcision.

Sixth, there is "no reason to think that the 'feet' she touched belonged to Moses. The most logical antecedent to 'his' (in 'his feet') is 'her son' and not Moses, who is never mentioned. (227)

Seventh, "the use of the word 'touch' in Exod 12:22, where blood is applied to the doorframe in the Passover ritual, suggests that her touching of the 'feet' is a ritual act, not an outburst of anger. . . . Touching the 'feet' completed the act of consecrating the boy." (228)

Eighth, if Zipporah did not address Moses nor throw her son's foreskin at his feet, then there is no reason to assume "her statement is an angry outburst." (228)

Ninth, the phrase "bloody bridegroom" is difficult to translate and interpret. Even the text has to explain that it is referencing circumcision. Therefore, it is likely that even native Hebrew speakers found the expression obscure and difficult to understand. Garrett suggests the etymology comes from Arabic (which Zipporah probably spoke). Thus, the "bloody bridegroom" language seems to be a unique reference to the act of circumcision.

Tenth, the text never says that Zipporah and her children abandoned Moses and returned to Midian. We simply "know nothing of the domestic life of Moses and Zipporah." (228)

I find the above ten summarized points convincing. I would add one more that Garrett leaves out and that regards context. In Exodus 4:23, God tells Moses that if Pharaoh does not emancipate the Jewish slaves he will slay the king's firstborn son. Immediately following that prophecy is a narrative about the potential death of Moses's firstborn son. I do not believe that is accidental. The difference between the two men is the covenant symbolized by the blood of circumcision.

Nevertheless, this text remains a difficult one to interpret, but not impossible. I do believe that Garrett's argument should be given more credence moving forward.