Friday, October 26, 2012

Biblical Womanhood and Rachel Held Evans

From Denny Burk's blog, I saw the Rachel Held Evans interview on the Today Show. There were many overarching problems I had with what she said, but I want to focus on just three.

First, her application of Proverbs 21:9 is wrong-headed: "Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife" (HCSB). In the video she says: "I made a swearing jar of sorts. Each time I caught myself in a habit of contention, I put a penny in a jar. And each penny represented one minute I had to spend on my rooftop doing penance." The side of the "swearing jar" said "No: gossip, nagging, complaining, exaggerating, snark." But Proverbs 21 is addressed to men, that they would be better off living on their roof than to live with a wife who nags or is contentious. There is NOTHING whatsoever in that text that hints at the wife going on to the roof or punishing herself (or being punished) for nagging by going on the roof. Her going on her roof is totally irrelevant to "biblical womanhood" in any sense of the phrase.

Second, she quotes Proverbs 31:23, saying: "Proverb 31:23 says that "a virtuous woman's husband is praised at the city gate." Then she says: "I made a sign, took it out to the entrance of my town, and praised my husband the right way." The sign read: "Dan is awesome". Is holding a sign at the entrance to her city a modern day application of Proverbs 31:23. A couple of comments here. First, the way she quotes Proverbs 31 makes her application close, but off the mark. The verse (as she quoted it) does not say that the virtuous woman does the praising, just that the husband is praised. Also, the city gate probably would correlate better to a place where people congregate in modern towns, which would not be where she was standing with her sign. The NET Bible has a footnote at this point: "The 'gate' was the area inside the entrance to the city, usually made with rooms at each side of the main street where there would be seats for the elders. This was the place of assembly for the elders who had judicial responsibilities." Second, she quoted the text incorrectly. The NIV (2011) states that verse this way: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” So the  NIV (2011) doesn’t say “praised” but that he’s respected. How about other translations?
“known” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NKJV, NRSV, NASBupdate, ESV, HCSB)
“man of note” (BBE)
“respected” (NIV84, NJB, TNIV)
“well known” (NLT, NET)
So her standing at the entrance to her city has no relationship to "biblical womanhood," just like her spending time on the roof of her house. Totally irrelevant!

Third, of course there are bigger issues here. She conveys no sensitivities to the concept of progressive revelation or the change in the covenants. She simply seems to be trying to mock Scripture. Well, that and to undermine those advocating things like submission to husbands. While I've only mentioned two examples, several more could be given from that short video clip. 

I highly recommend that you read Denny Burk's comments, as they are very well stated.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baptizing Young Children

There are many views on baptism, from baptismal regeneration, to baptizing infants, to believer's baptism. My view fits into the last category. But even within that last category, there are at least two views to consider: baptism based upon a valid profession versus baptism based upon fruits of repentance.

I heard someone say that there was no text in Scripture where baptism was ever denied. Immediately Luke 3:7-8 came to mind:
"He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don't start saying to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father," for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!'"

This passage is about people coming out to be baptized by John the Baptist. Therefore, we need to take into consideration that this is John's baptism, which may or may not be distinguished from baptism in the New Covenant. Regardless, the text seems to say (note the parallel to Matthew 3:7-8) that John refused to baptize people unless their lives demonstrated that they had repented.

There is another passage I think should be brought to bear on this: Acts 8:9-24. This is the story about Simon. Simon is explicitly said to have believed (Acts 8:13). However, the question of the end of the passage surrounds whether or not Simon was actually regenerated. I'm not going to enter into the arguments of that debate, but I do believe that the text makes it clear that Simon was never saved. So, how does this relate to baptism?

Many people love to bring up the "immediate baptisms" that take place in Acts. But reading the narrative as a whole might temper the conclusion. A biblical interpretation maxim I live by is: description does not equal prescription. That is, just because something is "described," that does not necessitate that it is "prescribed" or commanded for us today. So, how do you know if something being described is prescribed? One basic method is to look in the entire narrative to see if the thing being described is repeated over and over again in a positive way. Acts 8 describes an "immediate baptism" in a negative way. Now when looking at the baptisms in Acts (Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5), it is interesting to note that the second one in the chain contained a "negative" example and that all (except possibly the last) were immediate. Both of those ideas need to be balanced. I have many other thoughts about the specifics of those passages that will have to wait for another day.

I have a lot of thoughts on this that I'm hoping to have time to post on in the days to come.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keswick Theology

I have never really studied Keswick Theology, though I was familiar with the general tenets. Then two situations arose that drove me to dig into the topic. First, a former student approached me expressing his frustration with his spiritual growth. He indicated that he was praying and praying for a breakthrough type of experience, where following Christ would become much easier and more joyful. Second, my wife went to a conference by Martha Peace where she was warned about modern proponents of Keswick Theology. She came back and asked me about it. So, what steps did I take to study it?

Andy Naselli did his first dissertation on the subject (completed at Bob Jones University in 2006). You can buy the published version, Let Go and Let God? here. He also did a lecture series at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. You can listen to the audio and follow along with his PowerPoint slides. It is available here. It is also available in written form.

These lectures are immensely helpful at describing how this theology formed historically, who proponents were, and the dangers of it. I believe that remnants of Keswickian thinking continues on and it props its head in many sermons, unbeknownst to the preacher/teacher. I urge you to listen to his lectures so you too can learn more about progressive sanctification and avoid falling for the Keswickian trap.

If you want to hear how the concept of "Let go and let God" almost destroyed J. I. Packer's spiritual life, read this excerpt.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview on Which Bible Translation Should I Use?

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger and I were interviewed last week by Christopher Brooks on Christ and the City, a radio show based in Michigan. The topic was our new book: Which Bible Translation Should I Use? The podcast is available here. We come in at the 23rd minute and go until the 54th minute.

Mr. Brooks asked great questions and I appreciated his interviewing skills greatly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tithing and Charities: My Response

Before I begin my response, let me begin with this: the responses averaged 491 words, so I will limit my response to the question in the same way that the authors were limited. And yes, the text below is exactly 491 words.
The problem I have with answering this question is that it assumes a certain view of the tithe that I explicitly reject. I do not believe that 10 percent of income is a requirement for Christians. Therefore, the short answer would be: Christians can take the amount they have decided to give and split it between their local church and other charities without fear that they are robbing God … with one major caveat.
First, the definition of the tithe must be clear. The tithe in the Old Covenant refers to Israelites giving 10 percent from the increase of their crops or cattle. It was always connected to the land of Israel (crops from the land or cattle that fed off the land) and never referred to income in general. It definitely was not 10 percent of income. Let me illustrate.

Leviticus 27:32 says “Every tenth animal from the herd or flack, which passes under the shepherd’s rod, will be holy to the LORD” (HCSB). So, if someone has 10 cows, the 10th cow that passed under the rod would be given as a tithe. 1 out of 10 is 10 percent. However, if they had nin9e cows, they would give 0, meaning 0 percent. If they had 19 cows, they would give 1, meaning about 5 percent. So, what percentage did they give? No one really knows because it was different for everyone. Also note that “money” is discussed numerous times in the first few books of the Bible before the tithing Law occurs in Leviticus 27. While Israel may have been primarily an agricultural society, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have money or deal in money.

Second, I need to discuss the one caveat I referred to above. I do believe that Christian giving should place the highest priority on their local church. It’s not that other charities aren’t worthy, but verses like Galatians 6:6 lead me to believe that when one joins a local church, they should commit to supporting the ministries of that church. If your local church is struggling financially, trim down your giving in other areas and increase your giving their. We give over 75% of our giving to our local church. The remaining 25% goes to missionaries or other charities. However, if our church had a shortfall and needed more, we would probably sacrifice more and give to our local church, rather than take away from the missionaries we support. 

Conclusion: It is not “robbing God” to support charities, but your local church should not be suffering financially because of your support for those charities. My favorite quote about robbing God comes from John Piper: “My own conviction is that most middle and upper class Americans who merely tithe are robbing God.” The wealth of many (but not all) Americans means that the consistent application of the principles for giving explained in Scripture would result in giving that exceeded 10 percent of income.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tithing and Charities

Three Christians were asked to answer the following question: “Is it stealing from God to split your tithe between the church and other charities?” This is a great question to ask and I’m glad Christianity Today has asked three people to respond to it. Here are the responses and my thoughts about their responses.
Gary Moore, Amie Streater, Douglas LeBlanc (from

Gary Moore’s answered puzzled me at many points. I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to say sometimes. For example, when he says “Neither did Malachi say to bring the full tithes for the operation of the temple. The storehouse was for the needy,” I’m puzzled at how he views the relationship between the Old Covenant institution of “temple” and the New Covenant “church.” While the three main tithes commanded in the Mosaic Law (Festival, Levitical, and Charity) were all related, on some level, to the needy or poor, the Levitical Tithe really shouldn’t be viewed as for the poor. The “storehouse” was simply the place where the tithes were stored.

I fully agree with his analysis of the Empty Tomb data, but I’m not sure how that relates to the actual question. I think he was trying to insert a motivation to give more (which I generally agree with).

His conclusion: “Should the church reassume more biblical responsibilities, it would be entitled to more of the biblical tithe.” Oh how I wish he had attempted to define the tithe! If he means “10% of income,” then I would need to disagree with that definition. I can only assume he means that since he gives no other definition, but that definition cannot be sustained from Scripture.

Amie Streater is very clear: if you give part of your tithe to some other charity besides your local church, you are disobedient. She claims that tithing “is not spoken of differently in the Old and New Testaments.” While I actually kind of agree with that statement, it really hurts the argument being made. Since there were multiple tithes in the Old Testament Law, and since it is claimed that the tithe is not “spoken of differently,” that means Christians better be giving at least 20% of their income (or should I say, at least 20% of the produce from their crops and cattle [at least, those that are from the land of Israel]).

She gives a clear definition: “Tithe means a tenth.” The dictionary might say that, but that does not define the tithe in Scripture. She utilizes Deuteronomy 26:1-4 to demonstrate that the tithe must go to “the local church.” She then cites Malachi 3:10  and the “storehouse,” calling it “the church.” On what basis is the temple of Deuteronomy 26 and the “storehouse” of Malachi 3 equal to the church?

After explaining the typical view on tithing prevalent in churches today, she says: “As believers we can choose to bicker and nitpick about these Scriptures and search for evidence to give less. We have the freedom to do that.” Ouch. So, I guess that is a pre-emptive strike on those who disagree with her about tithing. Apparently they (including “me”) are trying to find ways to give less … I will respectfully disagree with that evaluation of the motivation of my heart.

Douglas LeBlanc explains that his Dad interpreted Malachi 3:10 to mean that Christians must tithe (“10% of income”?) to their place of worship. Then he states: “Whether my father’s exegesis would pass the muster of scholastic theologians does not matter to me.” Ouch (again!). What exactly does this mean? Is he saying: “whether or not the text actually meant/means what my father says, I will teach it to others”? … or maybe just that he disagrees with those “scholastic theologians”.

His answer to the question of the article is that splitting the tithe between a charity and our local church is not robbing God, but we “patronize God’ and we “distort tithing to mean something foreign to Scripture.” Interesting … so the meaning of Scripture does matter at this point. He never really defined “tithing” in Scripture, so I’m left to assume he believes it means “10% of income.” Again, we will disagree on this point.

So, I find zero satisfaction in all three of these answers, with the first being the closest to my view. What is my view? Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Does Biblical Prophecy Fail? Video available

The video of Dr. Michael Grisanti's presentation at Liberty University in September is now available. At the end is the Q&A with Dr. Grisanti and Dr. Gary Yates (of Liberty's seminary).

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Name of God: Yahweh or LORD?

There is an interesting blog post by Jason Hood (at the Gospel Coalition) on translating the name of God. I like the way Hood proceeds to process through the issue. Translation is not just about accuracy, but about communication. Even that statement is problematic, for it assumes a certain definition of "accuracy" that is probably incorrect! Regardless, take a look at Hood's article. I think there are some interesting implications for Bible translations. Also, the HCSB would be the closest translation that follows what he says.