Month: February 2011

for the nerd in some of us

This has been done before, but let’s have fun doing it again. The deal is rather simple: take a picture of your computer desktop, supply details about the image, post it to your blog, tag a few people, sit back and enjoy being a nerd. Here’s my meagre contribution to nerddom:

Details:
1. Picture is of St Catherine’s Island that I took while in Tenby, Wales with my gorgeous wife
2. Icons, from left to right: finder, appstore (new one), dashboard, mail, safari, firefox, iChat, skype, address book, scrivener (awesome), pages, keynote, numbers, word, excel, publisher, entourage, iFlash (awesome), iFamily (not working at the moment), dictionary, spotify, iTunes, quicktime, iPhoto, iProcrastinate, calendar, stickies, system preferences, time machine (it’s a hoax; I haven’t been able to go any where [or, any time]), and preview.
3. The rest: general folder, NETbible, my notes on revelation, document file, E. Jacquier (History of the Books of the New Testament: St Paul and His Epistles [1907]), G. Vos (‘Eschtatological Aspects of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit’ [1912]), my notes on Jacquier, my notes on Christian mediation, previous sermon on false teachers, upcoming sermon on ‘study’, greek vocabulary (just to stay fresh), lesson for kid’s woship (yesterday), my notes for our weekly home-group study on James, J. Ropes (Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St James [1916]), and a safari window.

For the five or six of you who read this: you’re tagged.

there and back again

This video has been making the rounds in the blogosphere.* I saw it first on Jim West, then Joel Watts, and then Gavin Rumney (a new blog to me). The main reason why I’m reposting it is because Rossing provides an explanation that needs to be considered, at least as a beginning point for a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches. I’m also a tad sadistic in that I enjoy seeing weak/poor theology being smacked around.

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* I would have uploaded the video here, but I’m not exactly sure how to do that–or even if I can, seeing that I have a basic [i.e. free] version of wordpress.

what to believe (3)

Near the start of January, I began a series of posts on the nature and merits of James Melton’s ‘statement-of-faith-via-20-questions’. (Go here for part 1, and here for part 2).  One of the curious features of Melton’s presentation is his (nearly dogmatic) insistence on simple ‘yes’ or’ no’ responses to the questions he poses. Another curious feature is his insistence that if simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses are not forthcoming, then the statement of faith is somehow defective–if not heretical.

As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses to Melton’s questions are not always so simple. This is especially the case when the question asked is not entirely clear, or if the question is meant to uphold a particular belief that is certainly questionable. This leads me to wonder if Melton is concerned with upholding biblical truths or if he is seeking to advocate a particular interpretation of those truths and call that interpretation, ‘biblical’.  I’ll leave that hanging for now. Let’s get back to the questions.

5. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died and paid for our sins on Calvary’s cross through the shedding of His own sinless blood?

For the most part, yes.  Why do I say, ‘for the most part’?  I’ve become less comfortable with ‘paid for’ language when it is applied to Christ’s work on the cross. Please hear me on this: I am not saying that Christ’s work on the cross was ineffectual; I am simply saying that I do not think describing it in ‘paid for’ terms is the best (or, most complete) way.

We need to bear in mind that ‘paid for’ language comes mostly from Anslem’s theological struggles as viewed through a feudal system of society. I will admit that ‘paid for’ language does appear to have roots in ‘redemption’ themes in the Bible,[1] especially when the idea of ‘redemption’ is compared with the slave-market of the ancient world. However, we need to recognise the ultimate focus of this sort of imagery. Just as with the slave-market, the biblical emphasis on the meaning of the cross is not simply about the transaction; it is about the effect or result of the transaction. 

6. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead for our justification?

Again, for the most part, yes. Why is there a ‘for the most part’ again? Well, I understand Melton’s thinking in this regard (and in many ways, I’m glad to see it stressed), that without the resurrection the problem of sin would remain (per 1 Cor 15.12-19).[2] In that sense, belief in Jesus’ resurrection as it relates to our justification is certainly vital. However, where I hesitate (slightly) is Melton’s decision to link justification with the resurrection only.

I hesitate primarily because the biblical teaching also links justification with the meaning and work of the cross. Paul often argues that our justification (or, righteousness) is contingent upon the work of Christ in the cross (2 Cor 5.21; cf. also Rom 3.23-26; 5.15-21; Gal 2.20-21). So, again, while I understand that this work on the cross is contingent upon the reality of the resurrection, I do not understand the need to link justification only with resurrection when it is equally linked with the cross. 

7. Do you believe that the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, currently sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest?

Yep (oh, sorry: ‘yes’). I particularly like the ‘currently sits’ part because it says something crucial about Jesus’ present role.

However, now that I think about it, I would have liked to see the ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ fleshed out a bit more–in the sense of Christ’ present enthronement as Lord and King. If Melton is coming at things from a particular Dispensationalist perspective, then I can understand why this idea is not fleshed out. And if that is the case, then I might need to modify my response so that it reads, ‘Yes, but . . .’

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[1] I was surprised to see that Melton’s alternate version of his 20 questions does not include Mark 10.41-45, which is one of the key texts for redemption readings of Christ’s work on the cross.
[2] Strangely, Melton does not cite this text in support of his claim.

did I miss something?

Side-stepping the fact that a 61-year-old woman gave birth to her own grandson (props to her), I was a bit puzzled by the description which reads:

Ms Connell, 35, and her husband Bill are the biological parents of the baby boy, Finnean Lee, who was conceived through IVF, but carried by her mother.

What puzzled me was the use of ‘Ms’ for a married women. At first I thought it might have been a typo, but the rest of the article uses the same designation. So, either the writer mistyped a bunch of times on the same thing, or something else is going on.

Am I missing something with regard to this use of ‘Ms’ for a married women? Or has the PC (not the computer) insantity become more ridiculous by extracting anything that looks masculine, thus castrating the ‘r’ out of the title?

okay, but . . .

This post carries with it some fear and trepidation, primarily because I’m wandering into a field of discussion that belongs to other people (i.e. OT scholars); but I’m jumping the fence and wandering nonetheless.

I recently came across this article, which attempts to show that Adam was created c. 4000 BCE (summary), and that this round figure can be proven via chronological analysis. Further, the article also deals with the (unannounced) topics of creation and the dating of the flood–presumably to help substantiate the claims about Adam. The threefold support for a ‘young earth’ and fairly recent flood, as given by Mr Sarfati, comes from what he labels: ‘contextual, linguistic and historical analyses of the book of Genesis’ (conclusion). He employs this type of support primarily because it seems to be the most effective way to overturn the theories those who argue against the early dates of creation, Adam and the flood. However, there appear to be contextual, linguistic and (especially) historical features that go unaccounted for in Sarfati’s article; things that might not stand in his favour.

Central to Sarfati’s case is the belief that the genealogies in the OT do not contain any ‘gaps’ or any places where gaps could exist. From the evidence he presents (and the way he gives it), we might conclude that such appears to be the case. However, Sarfati provides some gaps of his own with regard to the data he presents. Specifically, he ignores some important features found in the immediate contexts of the evidence he considers. I am thinking particularly of Genesis 10 and the so-called, ‘Table of Nations’, which is not mentioned by Sarfati.[1] Period. Admittedly, this is more linguistic and historical data, but it is important to consider for contextual reasons also because it contains much of the same begetting formula that Sarfati deems vital.

On the linguistic details, I will have to be quite remedial–simply because my Hebrew sucks. In this regard, the so-called ‘Table of Nations’ needs a bit of attention. Noah’s son, Ham is said to be the father of many children, however nearly all the ‘children’ listed are names of countries. If Sarfati wants to come back at me and say, ‘the names of Ham’s children are merely the “fathers” of the countries that later emerge from them, thus the names are of specific individuals which therefore maintains my argument’; my response would begin with two questions: 1) why is one of Ham’s children given as a plural name (i.e. Mizraim),[2] which Josephus classifies as the inhabitants of Egypt (Antiquities 1.6.2–another text that Sarfati ignores), and the offspring of that ‘child’ are also listed in the plural; and 2) does this type of thing not suggest that while the sequential listing has no gaps, there are periods (i.e. gaps) of time left unaccounted for in the gapless genealogies? And does not the admission that the ‘children’ of Ham could be the founders of particular nations also point in this same direction?

More problematic, for me, is Sarfati’s assertion that his chronological reading of the genealogies places the flood c. 2500 BCE. Here’s why this is problematic for me. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that 2500 BCE is the date of the flood. (>>starting to twitch at the thought of allowing this<<). Let’s also assume that the flood was absolute in its effect, thus wiping out everything except for what was in the ark. Let’s further assume that, upon leaving the ark and embarking on the repopulation agenda, one of Ham’s son (i.e. Mizraim) is merely the founder of the Egyptian nation. Thus, on this assumption, Egypt, as a nation, did not exist prior to the flood–unless I’m missing something in Safarti’s argument. At best, we might say that Mizraim (re)founded the nation of Egypt, if we’re saying that the flood destroyed everything. This would therefore mean that everything we know about Egypt (and other ancient nations, for that matter) must either follow from or correspond with the historicity of these assumptions.

Now for the problem: it is a known (historical) fact the renown Egyptian Pharaoh, Snofru (or, Snefru) was turning out pyramids faster than modern teenage girls produce meaningless text-messages. Conventional dating places Snofru’s time in office between 2613 and 2589 BCE, although some opt for a period slightly earlier (Kitchen implies something close to 2690 BCE), while a few opt for time slightly later (Assmann places the start-date at 2600 BCE, and Schlögl posits 2590 BCE).[3] Now for the fun part: Snofru was the first Pharaoh of, not the 1st but the 4th Dynasty, which obviously means three other ‘dynasties’ preceded him. In less dramatic terms, if we go by basic numbers, conservative estimates place the 1st Dynasty somewhere around the start of the 4th millennium BCE. It should be remembered that this designation refers to a (more or less) established leadership, or ruling monarchy; it says nothing about the origins of the nation. (Things could get more interesting if we factor in the timing of the Sumerians, but I’ll leave that alone).

So, if Snofru is doing his thing from c. 2613-2589 BCE, and is following in a tradition set down by his predecessors, but Ham is the father of the founder of Egypt and Ham exited the ark somewhere c. 2500 BCE; we have a bit of a historical problem. The cross examination of Pfc Louden Downey, from ‘A Few Good Men’, comes to mind. (‘If you didn’t make back to the barracks until 16.45, how can you be in your room at 16.20?’).  This historical dilemma only truly persists if Sarfati insists on maintaining a strict, overly literal, straightforward reading of the genealogies. And, to me, it seems as though the only reason to insist on this particular reading is so that he can maintain a certain belief about the time of creation, Adam and the flood–a belief that is, quite frankly, not necessarily supported by the biblical text.

I have one final concern with Sarfati’s article, and it is a methodological one. In his conclusion, Sarfati criticises his interlocutors (both listed and imagined) for only appealing to evidence or theories that support their presuppositions. Interestingly, Sarfati does not address the contextual, linguistic and historical evidence I’ve mentioned–things that do not necessarily help his case. Moreover, as I look through Sarfati’s bibliography, and excluding the small handful of those he cites in the article (and would consider whacky), I only see interaction with scholars who support his presuppositions. There is no critical engagement with alternate ideas or theories, which means he is not allowing room for the possibility that additional insight might prove beneficial. I welcome the potential correction on this, but it appears as though Sarfati views those whose theories are divergent from his as de facto wrong. That, to me, is not only a major weakness in the argument but also canoodling with a double-standard.

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[1] Slightly less substantial, the notoriously intriguing ‘days of Peleg’ (Gen 10.25) receives zero discussion.
[2] A name that is never mentioned in Sarfati’s article.
[3] K. Kitchen, ‘Some Egyptian Background to the Old Testament’, Tyndale Bulletin 5.6 (1960): 7; J. Assmann, The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaoh’s (2003), 478; H.A. Schlögl, Das Alte Ägypten: Geschichte und Kultur von der Frühzeit bis zu Kleopatra (2003), 87; cf. A. Erman who begins the 4th Dynasty c. 2800 BCE (A Handbook of Egyptian Religion [1907], xvi).

quote(s) of the day

From the always astute, Robert Cargill:

And let not a Christian song’s widespread presence in churches across the country fool you; the fact that a “praise song” gets played repeatedly in many worship settings is usually more of an indication that the song’s instrumentation is easy to play, or that the congregants mindlessly singing along lack any theological training or inquisitiveness than it is an indicator of a well-written song.

And then this one:

It seems “worship” is quickly taking the place of doctrine/dogma as that which stands in the way of what ought to be at the center of the Christian life: service to others. But, service to others is hard (read: “haaarrrrd,” like a whiny child), and takes a lot of time, as does forgiveness, kindness, making do with what you have, and educating oneself about precisely what one believes (and, for that matter, what one does not believe, as well as what can be proved and what cannot be proved, what is outdated, and what no longer belongs as part of a modern Christian life!). It’s much easier and much more funto see church as a divine therapy session, where self-righteous, self-absorbed doctrine helps us feel superior, and “meaningful worship” helps us recharge for another dreary week of actually having to interact with others outside of the gated communities and guard booths, and make a difference in the unsterilized, unsanitary world Christians are supposed to be affecting.

Read the whole thing.  It’s awesome.

how you like them apples?

On top of my usual (research) responsibilities, I have been doing some reading of 19th century NT scholarship, especially as it relates to the life and teaching of the apostle Paul.  Last night, I came across an interesting comment regarding the argument about using the book of Acts as a ‘reliable’ source for the life of Paul. 

The context for the comment deals with the assertion that Paul trained under the supervision of Gamaliel (Acts 22.3),* and whether or not we can accept this as true in light of Paul’s initial persecution against the early church (Acts 8.1-3; 9.1-2; contra Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5.35-39).  The comment is a response to this issue and it reads thusly:

That even this fact, attested in Acts xxii.3, should be questioned, is a proof of the quality of the criticism, now fashionable, which I cannot refrain from noting here.  Paul’s subsequent persecuting zeal does not agree with the tolerance of Gamaliel, therefore we must distrust the account of the Acts; that is to say, the developed character of Alexander the Great does not agree with the philosophy of Aristotle, therefore it is false that Aristotle was his teacher, etc.

- W. Beyschlag, New Testament Theology (1895), 2.7 n.1

I love old scholarship.

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* Some shameless advertising: I have an article on ‘Gamaliel’ (along with three others) coming out soon in the Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture: A Handbook for Students (eds. M.A. Beavis and M.J. Gilmour).