Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 4

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 1
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 2
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 3Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 4

Having explored Michael Bird's defense of the belief that following Jesus's crucifixion the Son of God descended to Hades (the place of the dead), let us now explore the opposite position through the pen of Wayne Grudem through two of his works, Systematic Theology and his essay first published in the Journal of Evangelical Theological Society in 1991, "He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea for Following Scripture instead of the Apostles' Creed."

In his Systematic Theology, Grudem begins with a multi-page, detailed chart tracing "The Gradual Formation of the Apostles' Creed" (583-585) in an effort to show that the creed itself is inconsistent with its own argument.* One may recall that Bird realizes this and sees no problem with this reality.

Grudem's first point is to say that the phrase "he descended into hell" is found nowhere in the Bible but exclusively in the Apostle's Creed. That creed, strikingly enough, unlike Nicea and Chalcedon, "was not written or approved by a single church council at one specific time. Rather, it graduall took shape from about AD 200 to 750." (586)

Furthermore, the phrase is not found in the earliest form of the creed "until it appeared in one of two versions from Rufinus in AD 390. Then it was not included again in any version of the Creed until AD 650." He also argues that to Rufinus, the phrase only meant that Jesus was merely buried, not literally descended to Hell.

One point needs to be made before exploring Grudem's argument: so far Bird is in agreement with Grudem. The reason is because Grudem is criticizing the belief that Jesus descended into Hell as opposed to Hades (the abode of the dead). Bird repeats throughout his writings the importance of this distinction. Therefore, Grudem's historical criticism is one that Bird, I suspect, would find much to agree with.

* The chart is taken from Philip Schaff's The Creeds of Christendem, 2:52-55.

All Around the Web - February 28, 2017

Christianity Today - Tim Keller Stepping Down as Redeemer Senior Pastor

Trevin Wax - I Wish Christians Would Argue More

Greg Lanier - No … “Saul the Persecutor” did not become “Paul the Apostle”

Christianity Today - A Stroke Freed Me to Redefine Beauty

Jared Wilson - Letter from a 'Concerned Church Member'

Chuck Lawless - 7 Reasons Pastoring a Church is Harder Today

WORLD - Lights, camera … word bomb!

The Gospel Coalition - Science Is a Religious Endeavor

Babylon Bee - President Trump Checks Infowars For Daily News Briefing | Satire

BBC - Killed for Christ in the Amazon

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Preacher in Black: Why Every Pastor Should Listen to Johnny Cash

Yesterday was the 85th birthday of the late Johnny Cash. Below is the article I wrote on his 81st birthday updated to reflect his 85th birthday.

Every pastor should listen to and be familiar with the music of the late Johnny Cash who would have turned 85 yesterday. Regardless of one's personal taste in music, the Man in Black is a source of insight that every pastor and theologian should take advantage of. Make no mistake, Cash was no saint. Some of his lyrics are offensive, suggestive, and inappropriate. Many of his actions were ungodly and wrong as his womanizing and struggle with drugs establishes. Even after openly embracing Christianity, Cash still put out a full page ad extending his middle finger to the country music industry. To say he was without sin would be more than a stretch, it would be a lie. Nevertheless, the Man in Black remains relevant today and the message that comes through his countless songs and lyrics is one that pastors ought to heed.

Johnny Cash's first big hit was "Cry, Cry, Cry." Cash concludes the song with the lyrics:
When your fickle little love gets old, no one will care for you.
You'll come back to me for a little love that's true.
I'll tell you no and you gonna ask me why, why, why?
When I remind you of all of this, you'll cry, cry, cry.

You're gonna cry, cry, cry and you'll want me there,
It'll hurt when you think of the fool you've been.
You're gonna cry, cry, cry. 

The song illustrates the cycle of pain and disappointment of idolatry of someone swinging from man to man in search of something that Eros cannot deliver. Of course the pastor knows why. The sinner is at heart an idolater in love with the self always searching for something transcendent that only God can deliver. How many pastors have seen the devastation left behind of someone who likes to "try, try, try" but in the end can only "cry, cry, cry?" Instead of such a "fickle heart", perhaps we should turn to Christ and there discover "A Satisfied Mind."

Or how about expressions of pain? In his song, "Big River" Cash iconically sang, "Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry/ And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky." Though the song is more about heartbreak than suffering in general, the lyrics articulate perfectly the human dilemma of those suffering whether from the lost of a love one or from the pain of broken relationships. Compare this song with a similar message in "A Legend in My Time" composed just before he died. There, Cash sang,  
If heartaches brought fame, in love's crazy game
I'd be a legend in my time
If they gave gold statuettes for tears and regrets
I'd be a legend in my time
But they don't give awards and there's no praise or fame
For hearts that are broken for love that's in vain
If loneliness meant world acclaim Everyone would know my name
I'd be a legend in my time

Then there is the reality of human depravity and frailty. Later in his life, Cash sang the song "The Beast in Me" which includes the lyrics "The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars / Restless by day / And by night rants and rages at the stars / God help the beast in me." There is another way of expressing this. "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." (Folsom Prison Blues) In a similar message, the song "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now" sang at various points of his career, is both a song about a literal chain gang and a literal prisoner being set free but could easily be interpreted from the perspective of death and eternal life with the Savior. I believe this is why he recorded the song again on one of his last albums "A Hundred Highways." Cash sang, "All the years I was known by a number / How I kept my mind is a wonder / But like a bird in a tree I got my liberty / And I'm free from the chain gang now." Is this not what we preach at each funeral? We are shackled to a chain gang of sin. Liberation is the cry of every man. Liberation is available only in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

My favorite song is probably Cash's rendition of "Long Black Veil." It tells the tragic narrative of an innocent man hung for a murder he did not commit. The judge in the story tells the convicted man he did not have to die if he could prove his was "somewhere else" during the murder. He refused to speak because he was "in the arms of his best friends wife." The long black veil is his unnamed mistress who visits him and "cries over my bones." The tragedy is over how an innocent man was executed for a crime he did not commit because neither he nor his mistress was willing to confess their sin. This public sin remained private at great cost. Someone had to die in order to keep the secret hidden. It is amazing how far we fallen creatures will go to pretend to be what we are not. That, actually, is the real tragedy of the story.

Countless other songs are rich with meaning. "That Old Wheel," a duet with Hank Williams, Jr., is a reminder of sin and its consequences. "What goes around comes around," is its message. He also sings gloriously anticipating the Man who will come around in the eschaton. "Get Rythm" is a message about joy in spite of circumstances. And on and on we could go.

This is all to say that Cash, even in his worse of moments, was preaching a gospel. Rarely, outside of his gospel songs he recorded frequently, did he preach the full counsel of God, but there is no doubt his relevance and power was not in trying to be what the culture wanted him to be. He just was. He understood humanity in ways most poets, musicians, and preachers rarely grasp. He did not preached a message we wanted to hear, but preached a message that revealed who we really were. Perhaps this is why he had a heart for prisoners. His songs convinced many of them he was one of them even though he had never spent any real time in prison.* Cash's history of drug abuse and heartache made him, at times, feel as if he were really one of them. And from the perspective of the gospel, he was. We all are.

Pastors and theologians should learn from Cash. Humans hide who they are, but we all know the truth about ourselves and those in our pews. Most pastors are busy trying to keep their job instead of fulfilling their calling. The message of the gospel, hinted at throughout Cash's career, is our job. If we would learn to pierce the hearts with a confrontation of the human dilemma and present a gospel that actually saves, instead of one that capitulates, we could change the world. Instead of a "Personal Jesus," perhaps we should preach how "God's Gonna Cut You Down" into a burning "Ring of Fire." However, the hope of such a lost soul is found in the "Mercy Seat" by which the "Amazing Grace" of God brought "Redemption" through the precious blood of "The Man in White."

"Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?" Yes you were. We all were. Preach it Mr. Reverend Black.

* Listen to the Folson Prison live album. Cash knew his audience. Virtually every song regards crime, prison, and punishment.

For more:
"Redemption" by Johnny Cash
"A Satisfied Mind" by Johnny Cash  

All Around the Web - February 27, 2017

Russell Moore - What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church

Joe Carter - Why the Transgender Debate Is About Redefining Reality

The Gospel Coalition - Man in the Middle

Thom Rainer - Seven Tips for Guest Email Follow-Up

Chuck Lawless - 8 Reasons Why You Need Regularly-Scheduled Testimonies in Your Worship Service

LifeWay Pastors - 3 Ways to Let the Fire of the Sermon Warm Your Own Heart

Patheos - Vermont is Once Again the Least Religious State in the Country

Justin Taylor - Jacques Barzun’s 10-Point Checklist for Revising Your Prose

Think Theology - The Jewish Calendar

The Federalists - Here Are The Media Hottakes We’d See If The Chronicles Of Narnia Were Released This Year

Babylon Bee - Calvinist Hymnal Released | Satire

Thursday, February 23, 2017

4 Things to Look For in a Church

As a pastor, I meet people weekly who are looking for a house of worship to call home. With so many  denominations and varying churches, the decision can be difficult. Too often the decision is based on programs, opportunities, nurseries, music style, and other conveniences. Certainly these are issues worth considering, but that is not where we should begin.

It is imperative Christians not approach the local church as a consumer. The church is not a place where I am to be perceptually entertained with little to nothing expected of me. The church should call us to holiness, worship, and spiritual growth. Consumerism cannot produce that.

Therefore, let us consider four (we could add more) of the most important things to look forward in a church.

1. A Church That Faithfully Preaches the Logos and Gospel

If the gospel is not preached, then go somewhere else. Only a church that is Christ-focused and gospel-centered is worth joining. Without Christ and his gospel there is no church. Period. Observe the songs that are sang, the preaching that is delivered, the goals that are set, and the prayers that are offered. If Jesus is rarely mentioned and if the gospel is barely recognizable, please, for the sake of the church, go somewhere else.

But if Christ is the focus, then go and grow in the gospel.

2. A motivated church ready to reach its community

Strong leadership will be short-lived if the congregation is complacent and unmotivated. I am convinced many churches have lost great pastors simply because they were unwilling to be led by either the Spirit or by their pastor. The church must reach its community. This work requires each member to engage its immediate context.

When visiting a church, survey the church's annual and monthly calendar and its budget. If it spends all of its time focused on itself, then it unlikely is very engaged or motivated to become engaged with its community. But a church that cares more about reaching its neighborhood than regular potlucks is one worth joining.

3.Genuine joy and worship throughout the congregation

The gospel establishes genuine, unshakable joy in the believer. Thus a congregation serious about the gospel is evident in how they interact with one another and with guests. A lifeless church is a joyless church. A joyless church is a loveless church. A loveless church is a dead church.

If you see very few smiles among the people, look elsewhere, but if their joy is contagious, then it might be a community worth joining.

4. Strong servant-leadership

All "church growth experts" will emphasize the importance of strong leadership from elders, deacons, and pastoral staff. Weak leadership produces a weak church. That much is true and the pastor (along with other leaders in the church) are called to lead the congregation.

Yet leadership is described in servant-like terms. Jesus' model of washing his disciples feet makes this evident. Look for a church that models servant-leadership from its recognized and unrecognized leaders. If the people lead by serving, then that is a church God may be calling you to join.

For more:
Five Ingredient of a Growing Church: Insight From Bisagno
The Prerequisites of a Healthy Church
Hard Decisions SBC Churches Must Make Less They Die

All Around the Web - February 23, 2017

National Review - Modern-Day Martyrs Show Love and Forgiveness

Rod Dreher - Polygamy: The Next Frontier

Canon Fodder - A Curious Clue About the Origins of the New Testament Canon

Don Carson - How to Subtly Abandon Your Bible’s Authority

Desiring God - It’s a Wonderful Time to Be Christian: Five Reasons for Optimism in America

The Gospel Coalition - Why I Support Capital Punishment

The Gospel Coalition - Why I Oppose Capital Punishment

LifeSiteNews - Facebook freezes out Christian mom for quoting Bible about homosexuality

Thom Rainer - Ten Joy Stealers in Ministry…and Getting Your Joy Back

ERLC - Why monogamy? A response to polyamory

Daily Caller - Fake News Site Lets Liberals Live In Alternate Reality Where Hillary Is President

Babylon Bee - Study: Calling Other Person A Nazi Is Most Effective Way To Dialogue | Satire

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 3

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 1
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 2
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 3

In the previous post, we considered Michael Bird's defense from Scripture of Christ's descend to Hades/Sheol following his crucifixion. Next we want to consider his argument from both history and the Apostle's Creed itself.

After commenting in What Every Christian Ought to Know this doctrine's "bad press" (146) in recent years and naming Wayne Grudem specifically (more on Grudem's perspective in future posts), Bird states categorically "Let me be clear that [Grudem's rejection of the Creed's assertion of Christ's descent]  is totally false; it is right that the descent is in the Apsotles' Creed and we are right to profess it." (147).

He begins by making a historical defense of the doctrine starting with the early church fathers. Bird suggests that those fathers were "absolutely unanimous" in agreement regarding this doctrine. He quotes, for example Irenaeus in Against Heresies states:
But the case was, that for three days He dwelt in the place where the dead were, as the prophet says concerning Him: "And the Lord remembered His dead saints who slept formerly in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them, to rescue and save them." And the Lord Himself says, "As Jonas remained three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth." Matthew 11:40 Then also the apostle says, "But when He ascended, what is it but that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?" Ephesians 4:9 This, too, David says when prophesying of Him, "And you have delivered my soul from the nethermost hell"*
To Bird, this is "a very early tradition deriving from the immediate post-apostolic period." (147) Yet this is not the only evidence in the early church though, admittedly, much of the other examples "elaborate" or embellish what Bird believes to be the apostolic witness.

Beyond the early writings among the post-apostolic church leaders are the creeds which Bird suggests is "a more complex matter." First, "The problem is that there was no authorized version of the creedal formulas in the early church, so you do get some local variations on precise wordings." To the early church, he argues, burial may imply descent thus the absent of an explicit reference to the descent of Jesus does not mean that the early creeds deny or pass over the doctrine but rather presume it.

Another major challenge regards the change in the Latin in the Apostle's Creed which Bird traces back to a fourth-century monk named Rufinus who changed the language from "descended to Hades" to "descended to Hell" thus promoting the false idea that Jesus descended to Hell and not to the abode of the dead.

So his historical argument in a nutshell is simply that the belief in the descent of Jesus into Hades, as opposed to Hell, is not only biblical with important theological implications, but was a common belief among the earliest believers in the post-apostolic age. The move away from this position is one of poor translation and misinterpretation of the doctrine.

*Not Bird's translation.

All Around the Web - February 21, 2017

The Gospel Coalition - A Two-Minute Clip on Homosexuality Every Christian Should Watch

David French - Washington’s Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist

WORLD Magazine - Washington florist loses discrimination case

John Stonestreet - Washington State Punishes Barronelle Stutzman

Denny Burk - Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything

GetReligion -  Back to the Washington state florist: Was Stutzman seeking right to shun all gay customers?

Sam Rainer - Seven Steps to Getting the Unchurched Interested in Your Church

Daily Signal - Study Finds Cohabiting Parents Twice as Likely to Split as Married Parents

Resurgent - Scarlett Johansson Says Monogamy is Unnatural – And She’s Right

LifeWay Pastors - Who’s Reading What? February 2017

Babylon Bee - Benny Hinn Loses Control Of Powers, Sends Audience Member Soaring Hundreds Of Feet Into Air

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Preaching" by Tim Keller: A Review

In the end, preaching has two basic objects in view: the Word and the human listener. It is not enough to just harvest the wheat; it must be prepared in some edible form or it can't nourish and delight. Sound preaching arises out of two loves - love of the Word of God and love of people - and from them both a desire to show people God's glorious grace. And so, while only God can open hearts, the communicator must give great time and thought both to presenting the truth accurately and to bringing it home to the hearts and lives of the hearers. (14)

If I were to make a "Mount Rushmore of Modern Preachers" (might make for a interesting future blog post) no doubt Timothy Keller would be on that list. Keller is unique among expositors. Though he is as strong as John MacArthur and Alistair Begg in his breaking down of the text, what makes Keller unique is his ability to apply the gospel to common cultural narratives. It is for this reason that I was eager to read his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.

The book largely avoids textbook discussions though it is there. Keller does define and encourage his reader to engage in expository preaching over other methods. However, Keller is clear that other forms of preaching, like topical preaching, are just as legitimate as expository. This is a small point, but in my experience, a number of preachers, particularly within the Reformed tradition, believe that expository preaching is the only form that God approves. It is refreshing to see someone in that same tradition suggests otherwise.

Nevertheless, Keller looks primarily at three issues: the art of preaching, preaching to the culture, and preaching empowered by the Spirit. The first section is the most technical section and it is here one will find the standard preaching discussions. Central to his view of preaching is preaching Christ crucified.

I suspect it is the second section, preaching to the culture, that will draw the most readers. There is no one more qualified than Keller to speak to this issue. He helpfully walks the reader through a number of the primary cultural narratives and how to address them in our sermons from a gospel perspective. This section alone is worth the price of the book. One of the best examples of this regards his illustration of the Anglo-Saxon:
An even more serious problem is that an identity based on expressing ourselves - without listening to outside dictates - is actually an illusion. A popular exponent of the sovereign self was Gail Shehy in books like the seminal Passages in 1976. She insists that you can become yourself only when you can look inside and express yourself apart from any "external valuations and accreditations." This is patently impossible.

Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. . Living in a shame-and-honour culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, That's me! That's who I am! I will express that. The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, That's not me. I will control and suppress that impulse. Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, This is not who I want to be, and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programmes. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, That is who I am.

What does this thought experiment show us? Primarily it reveals that we do not get our identity simply from within. Rather, we receive some interpretive moral grid, lay it down over our various feelings and impulses, and sift them through it. This grid helps us decide which feelings are “me” and should be expressed - and which are not and should not be. So this grid of interpretive beliefs - not an innate, unadulterated expression of our feelings - is what gives us our identity. Despite protests to the contrary, we instinctively know our inner depths are insufficient to guide us. We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life.
And where do our Anglo-Saxon warrior and our modern Manhattan man get their grids? From their cultures, their communities, their heroic stories. They are actually not simply “choosing to be themselves” - they are filtering their feelings, jettisoning some and embracing others. They are choosing to be the selves their cultures tell them they may be. (135-136)
In the final section, Keller addresses preaching to the heart that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is difficult and every preacher can confess frustration of  preparing sermons only to see little change in the hearts of their people. This is a section of the book that is pastoral, theological, and worth returning to over and over again.

Overall, this is an excellent work that every preacher should add to his library. Keller is unique among preachers and is beloved by young ministers for a reason. This book shows why.

All Around the Web - February 20, 2017

Joe Carter - Will Trump Defend Religious Liberty Against the LGBT Agenda?

The Gospel Coalition - What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption

John Stonestreet - BeyoncĂ©’s Three Hearts

The Blaze - Apparently, unborn babies are only human when they belong to Beyonce

Chuck Lawless - 8 Suggested Videos to Include on Your Church Website

Tim Challies - Your Calling: Bring Order from Chaos

Justin Taylor - Watch an Entirely Free, Seminary-Level Course with Carl Trueman on the Reformation

Pastors Today - 5 Keys to Preaching on Controversial Subjects

Daily Mail - Now HALF of families text each other in the same house: Experts say tech craze could have a 'catastrophic' effect on family life

Atlas Obscura - The First US Mosque

IMB - Redeemed to Go: A Rescued Refugee Returns to Africa with the Gospel

Friday, February 17, 2017

What a Pity the Human Animal Is: Harry Truman on Human Nature

After touring Berlin, Germany following the second world war, newly inaugurated President Harry S. Truman wrote the following in his diary on July 16, 1945:
Then we went on to Berlin and saw absolute ruin. Hitler's folly. he overreached himself by trying to take in too much territory. He had no morals and his people backed him up. Never did i see a more sorrowful sight, nor witness retribution to the nth degree.

The most sorrowful part of the situation is the deluded Hitlerian populace. Of course the Russians have kidnaped (sic) the able bodied and I supposed have made involuntary workmen of them. They have also looted every house left standing and have sent the loot to Russian. But Hitler did the same thing to them.

It is the Golden Rule in reverse - and it is not an uplifting sight. What a pity that the human animal is not able to put his moral thinking into practice!

We saw old men, old women, young women, children from tots to teens carrying packs, pushing carts, pulling carts, evidently ejected by the conquerors and carrying what they could of their belongings to nowhere in particular.

I thought of Carthage, Baalbek, Jerusalem, Rome, Atlantis, Peking, Babylon, Nineveh; Scipio, Rameses II, Titus, Herman, Sherman, Jenghis Khan, Alexander, Darius the Great. But Hitler only destroyed Stalingrad - and Berlin. I hope for some sort of peace - but I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries and when morals catch up perhaps there'll be no reason for any of it. (52)

All Around the Web - February 17, 2017

Sam Alberry - Sam Allberry explains how the message of Jesus on marriage is life-giving

Trevin Wax - The 5 Weightiest Words of Love

Evangelical History - A Reformation Bibliography

The Gospel Coalition - 16 Ways to Promote Unity Amid Political Disagreement

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Things Singles Wish Married Couples Knew

Thom Rainer - Five Reasons to Recommend Books to Your Church Members

Chuck Lawless - 8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

NAMB - Partnering well: Sending Church, pray for your planter

KY BCM - Experiencing the Millennials through Passion 2017

Albert Mohler - The Benedict Option: A Conversation with Rod Dreher

Babylon Bee - 7 Updates ‘The Message’ Totally Needs

Thursday, February 16, 2017

All Around the Web - February 16, 2017

Russell Moore - Does the Priority of Orphan Care Mean We Should Stop Having Children?

Eric Metaxes - Planned Parenthood and Prenatal Care

Chuck Lawless - 7 Ways to Pray for New Missionaries

Pastors Today - Pastors, Love and Honor Your Wives!

The Gospel Coalition - The Story Behind John Piper’s Most Famous Attack on the Prosperity Gospel

Mark Driscoll - The Amazing Love Story of Martin and Katherine Luther

Joel Beeke - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Joel Beeke

Panspermia in the News

If you ever question which comes first in modern science: scientific evidence or worldview, look no further than the theory taken seriously among many scientists called Panspermia which suggests life began by alien lifeforms depositing the first cells on earth. Francis Crick is often credited as being one of the first major scientists to popularize it.

Strikingly, this bizarre and philosophically motivated theory is in the news again, this time in the Boston Globe in an article entitled "A better theory of intelligent design." After dismissing the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, the author, Jacob Haqq-Misra, writes:
But there are other alternative ideas that can explain the origin of life on Earth. One needn’t be actively religious, or even reject evolution, to consider the possibility of intelligent design. That intelligence could have originated not on some spiritual plane whose existence can never be proven but simply elsewhere in the cosmos.
He later clarifies this theory to be, well, ancient aliens:
Modern science does offer a tenable theory of intelligent design, one that does not resort to religion or pseudoscience. When considering that humans were not far off from the technological ability to transport Earth-based life to other planets, astronomer Carl Sagan and his contemporaries hypothesized that extraterrestrial intelligent beings, if they exist, might try to do the same thing. From this speculation was born the concept that extraterrestrial intelligent designers are responsible for life on Earth.
(Pseudoscience is an interesting word choice)

He then goes on to seek to provide a scientific defense of Panspermia - the idea that life can transfer from one planet to another either directly or indirectly. To his credit, Haqq-Misra admits the unlikelihood of Panspermia taking place. Nevertheless, having conceded that life must have began by intelligent design - just not by Intelligent Design - rather than by unguided chance, he is left placing his faith in aliens.

He concludes:
Directed panspermia is not the best explanation of the data available today, but it remains a scientifically grounded idea that implicates an intelligent designer as responsible for life on Earth. It makes no claims that attach it to any particular religion or creed. There’s no reason it couldn’t be taught in schools.

We have nothing to fear from teaching a genuinely scientific theory of intelligent design in public schools. In fact, directed panspermia provides an excellent vehicle for students to understand the themes of astrobiology and the complexities of evolution. Let the students examine the evidence and decide for themselves which is more likely: origin of life on Earth, or origin from afar by extraterrestrial beings. Such an imaginative exercise will push students toward the frontiers of inquiry and inspire novel solutions toward a new, scientific theory of our origins.
There is a major problem to this theory. If life is transferred from another planet to ours, how did life on that planet begin? Panspermia does not explain the "origin of species" but moves the problem back another million to billion years. God remains the most obvious explanation for life. Rocks and dirt do not create life - even simple, single cells whether on our planet or one's on other galaxies.

In the end, Haqq-Misra reveals the worldview behind much of popular science. Having rejected God as a hypothesis, they are in search for aliens. So instead of allowing science to shape their worldview, which is what they want us to believe, much of the scientific community allow their worldview to shape their science. Panspermia is just one example of that.

I will let Albert Mohler have the last word:
Talk about magical thinking. For Christians, this simply reminds us that it’s the Christian biblical worldview when it comes to creation or it’s some other form of an understanding of how intelligent life in the entire cosmos came to be. And in this case, published in the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe is an argument that dismisses the Christian understanding of Intelligent Design, indeed, the biblical account of creation, and simply replaces it with the hypothesis of interplanetary panspermia. Now that is a form of truly magical thinking. It’s also a sign of intellectual desperation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Christianity and the Small Screen: "Smallville"

"Somebody save me."

Those are the first words of the theme song (performed by Remy Zero) of the CW's "Smallville." The show is the story of how a crashed-landed Krytonian alien adopted as a Kansas farm boy, Kal-El/Clark Kent, became the infamous Superman. Going into the 10 season show, the executive producers agreed there would be no "no tights, no flights" at all - a decision that bothered a lot of Superman fans.

In this review, I wish to offer a few general words about the show while at the same time look at some of the themes that I, as a Christian, noticed. In terms of the show, one must remember when it was produced. The first episode aired on October 16, 2001. Budgets for cable shows were much smaller and the age of blockbuster superhero movies and TV shows were yet future. In one early episode, one character grabs her laptop and proceeds to get online via dial-up. Anyone remember those ancient days?

With that said, the show was an entertaining one even though it was saturated with drama and love triangles. We all know that Clark Kent ends up with Lois Lane, but that relationship doesn't come until much later. Clark is constantly falling in and out of love with Lana Lang among others. When Smallville focused on the main narrative and villain of each season (like Bizzarro, Doomsday, General Zod, Braniac, etc.) it was at its strongest. But too often it got sidetracked by drama and needless character conflict.

Nevertheless, for fans of Superman, this is a must watch show even though it is a considerable commitment - 10 seasons consisting of 218 episodes.

In regards to specific themes worth highlighting consider the following.

External Redemption

Many are quick to highlight a number of parallels between Superman and Jesus. I am sympathetic to that reasoning, but no doubt it has its holes. As the theme song indicates, Clark Kent is a savior-like character. He constantly saves "damsels in distress," his friends, family, his hometown, Metropolis, and even his enemies. The first persons he saves is ironically Alexander (Lex) Luthor.

One of the strongest parallels between Christianity and Kal-El regards external redemption. Smallville constantly reminds us that we all need to be both saved and to be saved by someone other than ourselves. Superman is an alien sent to this earth to be its savior. That is similar to the incarnation where, Christ comes, not from a distant planet, but from heaven itself in order to save sinners.

In order to be saved, we need someone outside ourselves to save us. The culture tells the opposite story boldly proclaiming that salvation is found within us. If we learn anything from this story, let us learn of the importance of external redemption.

Yet Clark cannot save everybody. One episode is particularly instructive in this regard. The Kent family essentially adopt (not legally) a young man with a troubled past named Ryan. In the eponymous episode, Ryan is dying of cancer. Clark stops at nothing to find a cure even tracking down a doctor who had some success in fighting against Ryan's particular cancer. He is ultimately unsuccessful and Ryan dies. The message is clear: Superman can't save everyone; he is not omnipotent.

This is a powerful reminder of why we need the God-man and not just a Kryptonian. Clark Kent might be able to fight Lex Luthor and Braniac, but he cannot defeat death. Only Christ can - and has - do(ne) that.


Another major theme is that of adoption. One of the main premises of the show is that what makes the future superhero great is his adoptive parents. Even after his parents leave the show, Kent remains the boyscout because of their ongoing influence. In the last half of the series, they explore what it would have been like had Clark been adopted by Lionel Luther. Needless to say, he would have turned out different - not a hero, but a villain.

In this story is an exploration of the importance of manhood/fatherhood. Clark discovers his biological dad and thus struggles with his identity. Yet through it all, his understanding of what it means to be a man - and not just a human - comes from his adoptive father. The numerous scenes of Jonathan Kent teaching Clark and sharing with him wisdom are precious. In an age where manhood is rated "sexist" and fathers are either absent or absentminded, this is a welcomed part of the show.


One of the negative aspects of the show regards truth-telling - or the lack there-of. Clark is told by his parents and others to hide his identity. At the root of the growing hostility between Clark and Lex Luthor is this issue. Lex knows Clark is hiding something (how did this young high schooler save him from that crash?) but Clark refuses to tell him the truth. This puts a strain on their relationship. The two go from close friends to arch enemies.

But Clark lies to more than just the Luthor's. Every girl in the show is deceived as is all of his friends. The reasoning is obvious and simple. How would you respond knowing that the person sitting in class next to you is really an alien crashed on earth disguised as a common farm-boy? Could you be trusted with that information?

Later in the series they explore what would happen if Clark's secret was discovered. In this episode, Clark reveals his identity and results in both he and everyone he loves (especially Lois and Chloe) being hunted down by the government. The producers constantly reminded the audience why deception was crucial to Clark's success.

In Season 6, Clark explains why lying is sometimes best to Lois. His reasoning (consistent with the show): so long as it protects the people you love, it is the right thing to do. Lois Lane (who remains in the dark as to who Clark really is until the end) responds, "That is totally retarded." On this debate I side with Ms. Lane. What I would do if I discovered my best friend was a alien remains a mystery, but to rationalize deception under the guise of protection is done everyday and all it does is destroy relationships.

Christian Overtones

Finally, as hinted at above, there are numerous and repetitive Christian overtones throughout the series. This is inevitable as Superman is often portrayed as a godlike or Christlike figure. In the shows Pilot, Clark hangs as a scarecrow in the middle of a corn field clearly paralleling the crucifix. Even the cover of the season 1 DVDs portray Clark as a Christlike figure hanging from that "cross." In the Season 7 episode "Quest," Clark is asked if he knew what it was like to be worshipped while sitting in a church.

The overtones are found throughout the series. Kal-El's real father is given a god-like voice. There are Judas characters. Lex is a type of Satan character as seen in the prophetic caves. There are deaths and resurrections. Etc.

The show also explores theological and spiritual themes - a truth that runs through many comic narratives. In the Season 5 episode "Splinter" the professor and Clark debate the true nature of humans. Are we inherently good or evil? In "Lexmas" the archnemesis of Superman concludes that the key to happiness is money and power.


Overall, Smallville was an enjoyable show that is great for Superman fans, but the show has numerous weaknesses. Outside of the major characters, the casting was weak. The special affects were a few years behind and now look cheesy and cheap. The acting isn't the greatest and the stories are repetitive at times without cohesion. And then there were the endless love triangles and drama. Oh the drama!

But the show has many strengths. The beauty of comic book series is how natural they explore humanity, truth, and justice. The hero is constantly asked to do more than "save the day." The producers were strained a bit in telling their story and could have had more success had the seasons been shorter. Nevertheless, its Superman. Its hard to go wrong there.

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
Christianity and the Small Screen: "Smallville"
Christianity and the Small Screen: Fox's "House, M. D."
Christianity and the Small Screen: NBC's "Crisis"
Christianity and the Small Screen: FBI Files 

All Around the Web - February 14, 2017

The LAB - Parchments found at new Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

The Good Book - Christian women and erotica: the silent struggle you cannot see

The Stream - Here’s a Preview of Where Transanity Is Leading Us

Doug Wilson - Snowflake Wrath

Eric Metaxes - What Makes Christianity Different

Denny Burk - Evangelical Trump supporters have an obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty

Stand to Reason - We Live in a Very Fortunate Universe

Art Rainer - How to Maximize Your Housing Allowance

ProPreacher - The 5 Styles of Preachers—Which Are You?

Brad Hammrick - 52 Things to Text Your Wife (Hint: That’s One Per Week)

The Week -  Monogamy is out. Polyamory is in.

Babylon Bee - Couple With Joint Facebook Account Hosts Seminar On Healthy Relationships

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Crippled America" by Donald Trump: A Review

My religious values were instilled in me by my mother. The first church I belonged to was the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens. I went there every Sunday for Bible class. The church had a strong influence on me. later I went to Reverend Norman Vincent Peale's Marble Collegiate Church when I was in New York, and joined Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida.

Reverend Peale was the type of minister that I liked, and I liked him personally as well. I especially loved his sermons. He would instill a very positive feeling about God that also made me feel positive about myself. I would literally leave that church feeling like I could listen to another three sermons.

I learned a lot from Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the classic The Power Of Positive Thinking.

I think people are shocked when they find out that I am a Christian, that I am a religious person. They see me with all the surroundings of wealth so they sometimes don’t associate that with being religious. That’s not accurate. I go to church, I love God, and I love having a relationship with Him.

I’ve said it before – I think the Bible is the most important book ever written- not even close. (130)

Donald Trump is officially the President of the United States of America. That is still odd to me. I did not support him or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, he is our President and thus as I have done with his predecessors, I have invested in his writings to better understand his worldview and politics. Therefore, I picked up his campaign book Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.

The book seeks to lay out for voters where Trump stands on the pressing issues of the campaign. He tackles issues like immigration, the economy, health care, education, law and order, energy, taxes, and the media. It is this last topic that, unsurprising to those who followed the campaign and the transition, that receives the most ink. Of the seventeen chapters, Trump dedicates two to the subject of media bias and unfairness. Although I am sympathetic to his complaints, Trump does go overboard on the issue. I do not believe the Right should continue to accept unfairness from the press, yet Trump's approach of pettiness and whininess is unbecoming of the office of the President. Of all the pressing issues of our days, media bias does not rank at the top.

Nevertheless, the reader is given an important insight into how Trump uses the media for his advantage. For those who have observed the dance between Trump and the press, one will discover that the press seem oblivious as to how to cover him and Trump seems to enjoy playing them for fools. That is precisely Trump's game. Early on in the book, Trump writes:
I don't mind being attacked. I use the media the way the media uses me - to attract attention. Once I have that attention, it's up to me to use it to my advantage. I learned a long time ago that if you're not afraid to be outspoken, the media will write about you or beg you to come on their shows. If you do things a little differently, if you say outrageous things and fight back, they love you. So sometimes I make outrageous comments and give them what they want -- viewers and readers -- in order to make a point. I'm a businessman with a brand to sell. . . . But now I am sing those talents, honed through years of tremendous success, to inspire people to think that our country can get better and be great again and that we can turn things around. (10-11)
That, in a nutshell, is why Trump refuses to surrender his Twitter account. Within 140 characters, Trump is able to take the media on a wild ride that he controls. What is most fascinating is Trump's openness about this and the media's ignorance of it. Over and over again they treat Trump like he is just another politician, but he is not. He does things differently and will treat them differently.

Beyond this, however, the book articulates Trump's view on the state of the world, politics, the country, and why he is running for President. The same bravado we've come to love or hate (depending on your position) is found throughout each page. No one has ever claimed Trump lacked confidence. However, even if one disagrees with Trump's policies or personality, one must admit there is a clear vision for America here. Trump may not be a details man (he practically says as much in the book when he explains how he has always hired the best and let them do their jobs with supervision), but he has a clear idea of what the country should do and believes he is the man to do it. During the campaign, Trump was distracted with insults and the rest, yet here, we return to teleprompter Trump who manages to finish a sentence without completely tearing someone down (though he does do that).

One of Trump's strategies here is to defend his conservative bonefides. Though I am not convinced Trump is a conservative or even thinks like one, no doubt his conclusions on many issues are conservative-esque. He writes:
Let's review the conservative scorecard and check my grades:

Affordable health care? Here's my word - and I never go back on my word: Obamacare needs to be repealed ASAP - and replaced with something far better.

Immigration reform? Has anybody been more of a leader on this issue than me? my plan is simple: We build a wall and take back control of our country. massive law enforcement on the borders. Legal immigrants should speak or learn English; without it they can never assimilate.

Anchor babies? They're here for one day and the child is entitled to a lifetime of benefits when others have spent a lifetime, or their lives, earning them. This needs to end!

The Iran deal? Iran cannot be allowed to build a nuclear weapon. That’s not a threat. It’s a statement of fact. Our allies and foes alike should take heed.

The Second Amendment? I believe the rights of law-abiding gun owners must be fully protected.

Defense of religious freedom? I believe religious freedom is the most fundamental constitutional right we have and must be protected.

Fix our broken tax system? There is no politician who understands our tax system like I do. It has to be changed to make it fair for all Americans—and simplified.

I am a strong, proud conservative. The biggest difference between me and all the do-nothing politicians who are all talk, no action? Those people constantly claiming they are more conservative than anyone else? I don’t talk about things, I get things done.

I am standing up for this country because our so-called leaders haven’t been able to. So the next time someone questions my conservative credentials, show them this list! (99-100)
And with this, Trump was able to win the hearts of conservatives without having to honestly deal with his womanizing and assassination of character.

On a whole, the book is Trump. It reads like a Trump speech. Of all the campaign books I have read, this is one that is likely less edited by campaign staff and publishers. Yet that is part of Trump's appeal: authenticity. We shall see how far it gets him in the executive branch. In the end though, he has told us who he is, at least politically, in this book. Nothing so far has been a surprise.

All Around the Web - February 13, 2017

Fox News - 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered in Israel

Resurgent - Planned Parenthood Offered Pizza Parties and Other Rewards to Boost Abortions

The Gospel Coalition - What the Gospel Means for the Transgender Debate

Covenant Eyes - How to React the First Time Your Child Admits Watching Porn

Chuck Lawless - A Word to Pastors, Student Ministers, Student Leaders, and Churches

The Federalists - Why It’s Terrible News That Millennials Are Having Less Sex

The Gospel Coalition - Why Do Christians Care about Qumran and Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Gospel Coalition - How to Defend the Gospel from Its Enemies—and Friends

Resurgent - Georgia Pastor, Fired By State Over Sermons, Wins Settlement

Tim Challies - A Quiz on the Doctrine of Salvation

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sproul: Sin Causes Alienation

Taken from RC Sproul's book, Everyone's a Theologian:
The cosmic upheaval that came about as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve can be summarized as alienation or estrangement. Both words are important to the biblical understanding of salvation, because salvation is articulated in Scripture in terms of reconciliation. Reconciliation is necessary only when there is estrangement or alienation. Many of the early chapters of the Old Testament describe the historical roots of this alienation.

We are shown, first, that there is estrangement between man and nature after the fall. Sin is not merely a human problem; it brought upheaval to the entire cosmos: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22–23). God gave Adam and Eve dominion over creation, so when they fell, their corruption affected everything within the boundaries of their domain. When God placed His curse upon Adam and Eve after the fall, that curse affected even the ground; the world became resistant to the hands of fallen mankind.

Second, there is alienation between man and God. As a result of the fall, we are by nature in a state of enmity with God. We hear people say that God loves everyone unconditionally, but such thinking ignores the the reality of this estrangement. In fact, much of Scripture is devoted to revealing to us the steps God has initiated to cure this problem. The goal of salvation is to bring about the reconciliation of estranged par- ties. If those parties are not reconciled, they remain estranged.

Third, there is the alienation of man from man. Much violence occurs between human beings, not only on the individual level of bro- ken relationships but also on the grand scale of nations rising against nations. When we sin, we not only disobey and dishonor God, but we also violate each other with murder, theft, adultery, slander, hatred, and envy. The whole gamut of sin describes the way in which we injure other human beings and are injured by them in return.

Finally, we see the alienation of man from himself. People today focus much on self-esteem and human dignity, so much so that schools restrict punitive measures for wrongdoing to avoid injuring the fragile egos of children. This has gone to an extreme. Behind the self-esteem movement is a realization that human beings have a problem with self-esteem. The reason for that is sin. At the fall, we became alienated not only from God and from other people, but also from ourselves. It is not uncommon to hear people declare, “I hate myself.” Underlying that attitude is the fact that we cannot completely deny the wickedness that resides in all mankind.

For more:
"Everyone's a Theologian" by RC Sproul: A Review

All Around the Web - February 9, 2017

Joe Carter - The FAQs: The Johnson Amendment and Political Speech in Churches

The Federalists - Report: Global Spike In Cohabitation Is Destabilizing Children’s Lives

Justin Taylor - A Christian Vision for the 21st Century

Evangelical History - The Gilded Age’s Crisis of Immigration

Chuck Lawless - 7 Ways Preachers Can Learn from Educators

Washington Post - If colleges keep killing academic freedom, civilization will die, too

Thom Rainer - Five Principles to Help Pastors and Staff Know When to Compromise

Pastors Today - 4 Terrible Ways To Stop a Sermon

Practical Shepherding - Why should a pastor stay a long time at one church?

Sean McDowell - Where is Culture Headed in the Next Decade...and Beyond?

Babylon Bee - Tips For Spicing Up Your Testimony

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: Promiscuity Hurts Women

From Lewis's essay "We Have No Right to Happiness":
A society in which conjugal infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Women, whatever a few male songs and satires may say to the contrary, are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity. Where promiscuity prevails, they will therefore always be more often the victims than the culprits. Also, domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to us. And the quality by which they most easily hold  man, their beauty, decreases every year after they have come to maturity, but this does not happen to those qualities of personality - women don't really care twopence about our looks - by which we hold women. Thus in the ruthless war on promiscuity women are at a double disadvantage. They play for higher stakes and are also more likely to lose. I have no sympathy with moralists who frown at the increasing crudity of female provocativeness. These signs of desperate competition fill me with pity.

All Around the Web - February 8, 2017

The Blaze - New CBS poll shows that majority of Democrats consider Christianity as violent as Islam

Creation Ministries International - Birth control leader Margaret Sanger: Darwinist, racist and eugenicist

Breitbart - France: Anti-Christian Attacks Rise 245 Per Cent

Kevin DeYoung - Black History Month: John Chavis (1763-1838)

Thom Rainer - When the Pastor has an Affair

Chuck Lawless - 7 Ways to Break the Bondage of Worry

Erik Raymond - Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Tim Challies - The Five Tests of False Doctrine

The Gospel Coalition - The Greatest Hurdle Most Missionaries Face

Master's Seminary - The Reformation - Dr. Carl Trueman (2017 Winterim)

Babylon Bee - Church Surveys Community To Discover Which Doctrines It Should Abandon To Get Them In The Door

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 2

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 1
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 2

In part 1, we introduced the question of where Jesus went following his death on the cross. Did he descend into Hell or did he immediately, as he promised the thief, he spend his three days in paradise? We warned of the tendency among the prosperity heretics to turn Jesus's descent into the primary means of our redemption. That is heretical to say the least.

Yet there are those who defend, on biblical, theological, and historical grounds Jesus's descent into the abyss. One prominent modern theologian is Michael Bird who, in his books Evangelical Theology and What Christians Ought to Believe, defends this traditional proposition. It is no accident that though the former textbook is a one-volume systematic theology, the latter volume explores this question more fully since it is a study of the Apostle's Creed.

But let us begin with his systematic theology. In Evangelical Theology, Bird argues the following:
The problem is that this whole debate is misguided. The Latin creed does not say that Christ descended into hell. this wrong "tradition" is based on a mistranslation of the Latin. The Latin ad inferos found in the creed means "to the grave, the place of the dead" (i.e., [Hades]). It does not say ad infernum, meaning "to hell," the place of punishment after death (i.e., Gehenna). The biblical background for this line in the creed is not 1 Peter 3:18-21 ("he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits - to those who were disobedient long ago"), but Acts 2:31 ("Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection o the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead"). A better English translation of the creed, which is used in the Church of England, is this: "He descended to the dead." In other words, the wrong "tradition" about a descent into hell is really a wrong translation of the Latin perpetuated by the Reformers, who did not differentiate "hell" from "Hades." They then worked out a needless correction to make ad inferos the experience of Jesus on the cross (now Jesus did experience separation from the Father and undergo judgment on the cross, but that is not what this line from the Creed says!). So the Reformed reinterpretation of the Apostles' Creed needs to be reformed in order to recover the proper meaning of the descedit ad inferos (GK. katelthonta eis ta kato tata). (433-434)
In this paragraph, Bird is responding more to the Reformed tradition than anything. Bird believes we should go back to the tradition of the Patristics, distorted by the Reformers of the 16th Century and still being distorted today, by clarifying the terms Hades and Hell.

This is explored in more detail in What Christians Ought to Believe which receives an entire chapter. He begins by lamenting that for most Christians "Holy Saturday seems to be a down day in between church serves." Nevertheless, he argues "there is definitely something in between the cross and the empty tomb that is very important: the descent of Jesus to the underworld." (143)

In order to defend this thesis, Bird must defend the line "He descended to the dead" in the Apostle's Creed while at the same time show how it reflects the biblical record. Bird believes that Jesus, between Friday and Sunday was neither in Hell nor in Heaven. He writes,
To begin with, Jesus was not in heaven during this time. When Mary Magdalene met the risen Jesus, he told her, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brother and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17). The ascension marks the formal return of the Son to heaven, not any time before. However, Jesus could not have been in hell either because, well, hell did not yet exist. In the book of Revelation we learn that at the end of all things, "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire," that is, thrown into hell (Rev. 20:14). So Jesus could not descend to a habitation that had not yet been made or at least had not yet been populated with anyone. So where was Jesus? He was in the place called Hades (in Greek) or Sheol (In Hebrew), the waiting place of the dead. (144)
Key to Bird's argument here is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 where Hades possesses both the righteous and the wicked who are divided by an apparent invisible line where only the wicked can see the righteous but neither can reach the other. This, to Bird, explains Luke 23:43 where Jesus promises the thief he would see him in Paradise. By "Paradise," Jesus meant "the blessed sanctuary within Hades"

Thus in Bird's theology "Jesus's body was buried, and his soul joined the company of the dead." (144) Therefore, the Creed should be translated Jesus "descended to the place of the dead" rather than just "to the dead." (145)

This leads to 3 basic conclusions from the New Testament witness in Bird's assessment. "First, Jesus preached the good news of his victory to the wicked in Hades." (145) This "is implied by some enigmatic verses written by Peter," namely 1 Peter 3:19-20:
19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
Bird interprets this passage as meaning that Jesus going to the place of the dead and declaring "his victory over the disobedient angels imprisoned there and" reminding "the wicked of the judgment to come." (145)

Secondly, Jesus took the saints of old up to heaven. This suggestion is taken from Ephesians 4:8-10 which also quotes Psalm 68:18.
Therefore it says,
When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
Bird's point is that at the ascension Jesus victoriously led the Old Testament saints into heaven. Therefore, when believers die, they immediately join Jesus in Heaven (see Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 5:1-4; Phil 1:23; Rev. 6:9-11).

Thirdly, "Jesus achieved a victory over death and Hades itself." (146) The descent, in Bird's theology, is key to this victory. Bird references and directly quotes Revelation 1:17-18; 6:8; 20:13-14 as well as Acts 2:24, 27, 31. Thus:
Because Jesus descended and rose, the doors of death and the gates of Hades cannot prevail over the church. Because Jesus descended and rose death could not hold him and Hades could not keep him. Because Jesus descended and rose, he owns the keys to death and Hades. In brief, the descent means that death is defeated an Hades has been subjugated to the will of the risen One. (146)
From here, Bird interacts with Grudem and others who reject his interpretation and at the same time defends the traditional reading of the Creed. We'll look at that next.