|1. TRINITARIAN CONFESSION OF THE ITALIAN CHURCH OF GENEVA (1558)||3|
|2. THE REDEMPTIVE-HISTORICAL HERMENEUTIC AND PREACHING||11|
|3. LAST ENEMY||40|
|4. THE LAW FROM THE NEW MOUNT||42|
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[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 3-10]
On May 22, 1558, John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote a letter to Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562) detailing the troubles in the Italian congregation of Geneva over the doctrine of the Trinity.1 The ghost of Michael Servetus (1511-1553),2 as it were, reappeared in the several Italian heterodox refugees huddled in Geneva against the Catholic Inquisition and other threats. Among the agita-
2 The anti-Trinitarian Christology of Servetus is a hodge-podge of chaotically contradictory elements. Stephen Edmondson's "a mélange of elements" is an apt description (Calvin's Christology  212). Servetus was adamant in what he rejected, if enigmatic in what he proposedJesus of Nazareth was not a hypostatic person, i.e., he does not consist in a union of a divine and human nature. Servetus argued that Christ became the son of God at birth by a mixture compounded from the essence of God, a spirit element and flesh. Hence he is more created son of God (from a Logos template) than ontological Son of God. The Platonic influence evident here led the Strasbourg Reformers to state that Servetus posited a verbildung ("pattern") for the pre-mundane Logos. As he rejected the ontic deity of Christ, Calvin vigourouly opposed his confused formulations. It is Servetus's furious repudiation of the Nicene formulation of the Godhead that brings Calvin to its defense in response. Cf. The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, trans. Earl M. Wilbur (1932); but see George H. Williams's summary of his mature anti-Trinitarian thought, The Radical Reformation (1962) 610-12; Calvin, Institutes, II.xiii.22.
Gribaldi's opportunism was emboldened by the death of the pastor of the Italian church, Celso Martinengo (b. 1515), in July 1557.4 Lattanzio Ragnone (d. 1559) succeeded as pastor of la Chiesa degli Italiani and inherited the brewing firestorm. Gribaldi was reinforced by the arrival of Biandrata in 1557. Over the next year, Biandrata sought a number of personal interviews with Calvin in order to present his novel views on the Trinity. Calvin courteously heard him out several times, but finally realized he was incorrigible and broke off the meetings.5 Pastor Ragnone summoned Biandrata, Alciati and Silvio Tellio before the consistory of the Italian church in May 1558. Remembering the fate of Servetus, Biandrata saw the handwriting on the wall and fled to Berne. Calvin joined Ragnone on May 16, 1558 in a petition to draft a confession of faith on the Trinity for the Italian congregation. The confession was quickly drafted and read to the church on May 18. In the process, Calvin entertained a three-hour discussion in which open expression of opinion was guaranteed. Alciati was present for this exchange, but Gentile was absent. At
4 Gribaldi had previously unsettled the congregation by criticizing the doctrine of the Trinity in September 1554. Calvin urged him to appear before the Consistory on June 29, 1555 and subsequently the Council. All of which came to naught as Gribaldi was not a citizen of Geneva, but of the territory of Berne. He professed three distinct and separate beings in the Godheadhence Tritheism, as Marian Hillar demonstrates, The Case of Michael Servetus (1511-1553)The Turning Point in the Struggle for Freedom of Conscience (1997) 378-79; cf. also Wilbur, op. cit., 222; Williams, ibid., 625.
5 See Tylenda, 29ff.
However, within a few weeks, Gentile had second thoughts about the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He was seized, in turn, and imprisoned on July 9. Distancing himself from Servetus's merely economic Trinity, Gentile suggested a Trinity of persons of decreasing potency from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit. Realizing his cause was hopeless, he agreed to recant and was publicly humiliated.8 In a short time, Gentile abandoned Geneva sojourning in Farges (an estate near Gex), Lyons and Grenoble before being arrested in Gex (Bernese jurisdiction) in 1561. He had already attacked Calvin's doctrine of the Trinity, detailed in the latter's 1559 edition of the Institutes, with his infamous Antidota (no longer extant). The authorities in Gex demanded that he publish his views in a Confessio which was released in Antwerp in 1561. The following year Gentile emigrated to Poland with Paolo Alciati where he settled in Cracow before moving on to Pin´czów. Two years later, he was in flight again for Moravia, Vienna and Savoy. Returning to Gex in 1566, he refused to recant his anti-Trinitarian views (as he had in 1558) and was beheaded September 10.
Poland, Hungary and Transylvania would become the hotbed of anti-Trinitarianism after 1558. Because of religious tolerance prevalent in these regions, Biandrata, Gentile, Alciati and the Socinian duo (uncle, Lelio [1525-1562] and nephew, Fausto [1539-1604]) insinuated the ancient Arian heresy and worse into Protestantism, giving birth to the modern Unitarian movement.
7 See Calvin's letter to Galeas Caraccioli, Marquis de Vico, of July 19, 1558 in Bonnet, op. cit., 4:440-46.
8 See the text of this public penance in Bernard Cottret, Calvin: A Biography (2000) 255-56.
Although the confession of faith contained in the Apostles' Creed should suffice for ordinary Christian people, nevertheless because some, by their curiosity, having deviated from the pure and true faith, have disturbed the union and harmony of this church, and have sown false and erroneous opinions, to obviate all the craftiness of Satan and to be armed and prepared against those who would seduce us, and to show that we believe with one heart and speak with one mouth, and similarly that we refute and detest all heresy against the pure faith, which until now we have held and which we wish to follow to the very end, we have resolved to make the declaration which here follows, as to the one and simple essence of God and the distinction of the three persons.
We declare therefore that God the Father has even generated [generato] from all eternity his Word and Wisdom, that is his only Son, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both, since there is but one sole and single essence of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: and this, that the Father is distinct from the Son, and the Holy Spirit from the one and the other, in respect to the persons.
So, confessing that there is but one God, we acknowledge that all that is attributed to the Divinity and to His glory and essence, is as fitting to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, when one speaks simply of God without making comparisons between one person and the other. But, when making the comparison between the persons, one from the other, it is fitting for us to recognize that which is proper to each, to make the distinction that the Son is not the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit the Son.
As to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, other than having been generated [generato] from all eternity by God His Father, and being a person distinct from Him, we believe that in his human nature, in which he clothed himself for our salvation, he is still the true and natural Son of God, having thus united the two natures, that there is none but one mediator alone, God manifest in flesh, still preserving the properties of each of the two natures.
Furthermore, making this declaration we declare and upon the faith which we owe to God, we promise and we obligate ourselves to follow this doctrine, and to persevere in it, without contravening it either directly or indirectly, or with any malice, that would nourish any dissent or disagreement that would divert us from this accord. And in general to shut the door on any future discord, we declare that we want to live and die in obedience to the doctrine of this church, and, as much as we are able, to resist all sects which may rise up. And so we approve, accept and confirm it, under penalty of being held perjurers and ones lacking in faith.
When four years before, the elders of the Italian church which is among us had perceived (as by scent), that among some of the flock perverse words were being spoken against the first head of our faith concerning the three persons in the one essence of God, it seemed to them that there was no better remedy than that a confessional formula be drawn up to disclose whether that poison lay hidden. This we have inserted here rendered word for word in Latin, to which all should subscribe.
It is indeed necessary to all sober Christians that the confession of faith comprehended in the Apostles' Creed be sufficient. Yet because some, whose curiosities have seduced certain ones from that pure and true faith, having sown certain false opinions and errors, have disturbed the peace and concord of this church, it seemed [necessary] to us to publish the present confession of faith concerning the one and simple essence of God and the distinction of the three persons, both in order that we may meet all these subtleties of Satan, and also in order that we may be sufficiently instructed against these imposters, and in addition in order that we may demonstrate, that we believe the same in one heart and speak with [one] voice, and at the same time reject and detest all heresies contrary to this pure faith which thus far we have retained and have decreed to follow up to the end.
Therefore we profess God the Father even to have begotten
[genuisse] his Word or Wisdom from eternity
[ab aeterno], who is his only Son, and the Holy Spirit thus to have proceeded from them both since there is one sole
and simple essence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover [we profess]
Thus we condemn and detest the error of those who affirm the Father simply with respect to his essence, and that (as they say) he is the only and true God, having begotten [genuisse] his Son, as if by divine majesty, glory and essence; accordingly that true deity is proper to the Father only, or Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are divine beings proceeding from him, and hence the unity of the divine essence is divided and separated.
Also since we confess one God only, we acknowledge that whatever is attributed to his deity, glory and essence, is suitable as much to the Son as to the Holy Spirit, since it is said of God simply, without mutual comparison of persons among themselves. But on the contrary, as the persons are compared among themselves, they are to be marked by individual properties, by which they should be distinguished in this manner: that the Son is not the Father, neither is the Holy Spirit the Son.
What belongs to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, other than [the fact] that he has been begotten [genitus est] from all eternity [ab omni aeternitate] by God the Father, and is a person distinct from him, we also believe that he, in his human nature which he assumed for the sake of our salvation, is the true and natural Son of God, because plainly two natures are so joined in one as to be sole mediator, God manifest in the flesh, preserving nevertheless the properties of both natures.
So furthermore we publish this confession, that we may testify and promise in a godly manner, by that faith by which we have been bound by God, that we are going to observe this doctrine and thus persevere in it, [and] that we should never, either directly or indirectly, repudiate it through malice or by a decree that supports any kind of disagreement that can destroy this concord. Finally, in order that we may address all future disagreements, we profess to have determined to live and die according to the doctrine of this church, and against all sects that may rise up. We approve, receive and confirm all these things, with the condition that he who does otherwise is to be considered a perjurer and faithless.
Fr. Porcellinus I receive and approve whatever is encompassed in the above written confession
Joh. Valentinus Gentilis I accept as above
Hippolytus Pelerinus Carignanus I accept as above
Joh. Nicolaus Gallus I accept as above
When I was a student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia during the mid 1970's, the historic Reformed faith was the archimedean point of the institution as a heterogeneous faculty and student body advanced their own convictions and concerns about that historic faith and the direction that she should adopt. In my judgment, supporters of practical theology, systematic theology, and biblical theology seemed to dominate the corridors of the school. Although defenders of each rubric were loyal, articulate, and passionate concerning their own persuasions, faculty and students from each perspective engaged others in civil as well as tense deliberations. From these discussions emerged serious differences and challenges; even so, I do not recall a spirit in which the orthodoxy of each perspective was seriously questioned.
If my assessment is credible, it may be imprudent to place before the church a case for Biblical theological or redemptive-historical hermeneutics and preaching. Furthermore, it may seem irresponsible to support such an approach as the most Biblical approach to the Scriptures and the pulpit. Although I hope for a renewed peaceful coexistence with the opponents to Biblical Theology, I do not believe that I should resist my own Biblical convictions. After all, from my viewpoint, the definition and understanding of Biblical Theology lies within the parameters of the analogy of Scripture found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, i.e., "the infallible rule of the interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself (I:ix)."2 In my judgment, the Confession's
In any theological controversy, the language associated with the dispute seldom maintains a universal understanding. Often both the proponents and the critics seem to speak and write without effectively comprehending what each side is saying. Although this condition seems to describe the present situation, I believe the terminology of Biblical Theology and redemptive-history remains adequate if we define carefully these concepts within the tradition of Biblical and Reformed orthodoxy.
From my perspective, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic are inseparable and complementary. As the terms initially appeared in the Reformed world, Biblical Theology referred to a discipline being defined within the theological corpus, whereas the redemptive-historical hermeneutic referred more directly to the exegetical enterprise. Although Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), the father of Reformed Biblical Theology preferred the phrase "History of Special Revelation,"3 he wrote, "Biblical Theol-ogy is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible."4 Or, as he stated in his inaugu-
redemptive-historical character of biblical revelation, the principle of context, of the analogy of Scripture, the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, so central in the Reformation tradition of biblical interpretation, finds its most pointedly biblical realization and application" (cf. also his "The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics," in Vitality of Reformed Theology: Proceedings of the International Theological Congress, June 20-24, 1994 [Kampen: Kok, 1994] 26, n. 19).
4 Ibid., 13.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the four departments of Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical theology were the typical divisions of the theological encyclopedia.6 Although Biblical Theology was not one of the four branches, Vos understood the discipline as the crown and final product of the various components of Exegetical Theology.7 Even Vos's illustrious colleague at Princeton, the didactic and polemic theologian Benjamin B.
6 (See Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, trans. J. Hendrik De Vries [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980] 630 and Vos, Biblical Theology, 12-13). One may wish to note that A. A. Hodge only mentioned three departments: Exegetical, Dogmatic or Systematic, and Practicalexcluding the Historical (Outlines of Theology, ed. William H. Goold [London: T. Nelson and Sons, Paternoster Row, 1872] 51). Although he wished to add a fifth department of Apologetic Theology to the encyclopedia, Benjamin B. Warfield, in his inaugural address at Princeton Theological Seminary (May 8, 1888), articulated and defended an exalted position for Systematic Theology. In doing so, he discussed the relationship between Systematic Theology and the other disciplines, including a positive assessment of Biblical Theology in the entire theological enterprise (Inauguration of the Rev. Benjamin B. Warfield as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology [New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1888] 22-28; cf. also his "The Idea of Systematic Theology (1896)" in The Princeton Theology 1812-1921: Scripture, Science, and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. Mark A. Noll [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983] 241-261, esp. 250-253).
7 Vos understood that Exegetical Theology comprises four disciplines. If we begin with man's investigating procedure, then Biblical Theology is the last step: (1) study of the content of Scripture, (2) typical "introductory" issues of the Biblical text, (3) questions surrounding "Canonics," and (4) the study of the actual self-disclosure of GodBiblical Theology. On the other hand, Vos strongly emphasized that the procedure and sequence is reversed from the viewpoint of God's activity (see ibid., 13). Specifically, Vos remarked, ". . . Biblical Theology is that part of Exegetical Theology which deals with the revelation of God" ("The Idea of Biblical Theology," 6). For further insight to the relationship of Biblical Theology and Exegetical Theology, see James T. Dennison, Jr's article, "Building the Biblical-Theological Sermon. Part I: Perspective," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 4/3 (December, 1989): 30-32.
If we exclude from Vos's first definition the reference to the discipline within the theological corpus, his second definition is simply an elaboration of the first definition, i.e., God records in the Bible the supernatural revelation of Himself as it unfolds, grows, and matures historically in various forms (language, theophany, prophecy, etc.) as one holistic document. Likewise, Warfield maintained that Biblical Theology opened "a new era in theological investigation by making known to us the revelation of God geneticallythat is, by laying it before us in the stages of its growth and its several stadia of development."9 In agreement with Vos, Warfield apprehended that the Scripture recorded a revelation from God that held together as a whole; there was an interdependence and continuity that existed within the revelatory fabric of the Bible from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation.
Although the theological landscape of the nineteenth century seemed to grasp afresh the various stages and developments of God's progressive revelation by virtue of Biblical Theology, Vos and Warfield simply captured and
9 "Century's Progress in Biblical Knowledge ,"in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973) II: 12. The article originally appeared in Homiletic Review (March, 1900) 195-202. Relevant to our immediate comments, Warfield further elaborated on the distinction between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology when he wrote: "If men have hitherto been content to contemplate the counsel of the Most High only in its final statelaid out before them, as it were, in a map [Systematic Theology]hereafter it seems that they are to consider it by preference in its stages, in its vital processes of growth and maturing [Biblical Theology]" ("Century's Progress,"12).
Although he stands firmly upon the previous work of Vos and Warfield, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. wishes to understand Biblical Theology as a method "indispensable for sound biblical interpretation."11 Herein, Gaffin does not wish to focus his understanding of Biblical Theology upon its definition (Vos) or the systematic arrangement of the data (Warfield), although such concerns are not curtailed in his work.12 Rather, one's engagement with the Biblical text is his primary concern. For him, such an engagement always presupposes a hermeneutical method to interpret and understand the Biblical text. In other words, the method of exegesis or interpretation is bound to his view of Biblical Theology. Specifically, the context and text of the Biblical narrative must
11 Ibid., 229.
12 See Ibid., 230, 245, n.1.
We have seen that in Reformed theology the name Biblical Theology refers to its position in the theological encyclopedia, its definition, its organizing task, and its method of interpretation. Concerning the method of interpretation, we have also seen that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic may best describe the exegetical activity of Biblical Theologya method of interpreting and applying the Biblical text. At this point, it is crucial to understand that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is connected organically with the historic Reformed view of Scripture. Reformed orthodoxy has held to a high view of Scripture as the authoritative and infallible Word of God. In my judgment, such a doctrine of Scripture cannot be compromised. In fact, I believe it is the constant duty of the Reformed exegete to freely critique his own work in order to remain more consistent to an integral relationship between exege-
15 See Gaffin's, "The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics," 25-26.
Recently, Gaffin has provided further enlightenment for our understanding of Biblical revelation. He has brought to the forefront an observation that was inconspicuous and subtle in Vos. He has highlighted Vos's position that the Scriptures are God's document concerning His activity (event) and His interpretation of that activity. The sequence is crucial: act (event) precedes interpretation (word).16 The historical activity of God occurs initially independent of the Scripture; then the Holy Spirit, through a chosen human instrument, records the revelatory-activity in written form. Simply, the Bible is the record of God's activity in the process of history. Or, to approach the issue from the other angle, the Bible is God's own interpretation of his own actsGod is interpreting his events when he performs them. More specifically, the
We have just pierced the inner core of Reformed Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic; in the Scriptures we have entered into the very fabric of God's historical progressive revelation. Unlike the discipline of Systematic Theology, such an understanding is not a scientific activity of arranging, structuring, or organizing revelation. Rather, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic attempts to understand and present the revelation of God's self-disclosure in a manner that is truly consistent with the progressive revelation of God in a particular text as well as in the context of the whole of Scripture. It seems to me that within a consistent Reformed view of Scripture that Biblical Theology becomes the highest branch of theology in the encyclopedia. Why would we want to maintain that Systematic Theology is the highest branch of theology, since it is the operation of a human theologian? The systematic theologian takes the data of Scripture as a finished document and by using the canons of human logic arranges the material of Biblical revelation into logical sequential topics. Likewise, why would some maintain that Practical Theology is the highest branch of theology, since it looks at Scripture from the perspective that the exegete must infer and deduce ethical maxims for the sake of practical living in the believer's present situation? Such a human scientific activity assumes a gap between God's Word and the world in which the believer lives. Although both Systematic Theology and Practical Theology have a positive position in the branches of theology, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic are pushing us into the inner fabric of God's own revelation. We are entering into the actual manner of God's self-unfolding revelation of himself. This is not a
19 Cf. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992) I: 1.
This incredible bond between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the believing exegete has another dimension. Historic Reformed theology has been emphatic that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead who applies the truth of Scripture to the everyday walk of the believer and the church.22 As we maintain that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and that it is the same Spirit who applies the truth of God's Word to his people, then there is a certain sense that the Bible is itself the application of its own message. In a preliminary manner, permit me to highlight two points here, although later in this essay I will want to enrich and deepen this concept. First, the Bible records an act of God and the Bible supplies its own application of that act. For example, God creates the world and Psalm nineteen supplies an application to the work of God's creation. Or, God resurrects Christ from the dead and the Apostle Paul provides an application of the resurrection of Christ in Colossians chapter three. Second, the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture has the power to melt, convict, and shape the hearts of readers by the very words He has written so as to cause the human spirit to act and respond. Hence, to speak of the Bible as application does not mean merely that the message of the Bible is relevant to every age; rather, the very words of Scripture are effectual. Directly, the words of the Holy Spirit in Scripture are life. In saying this, clarity and caution must be exercised. As I maintain the sovereign and independent
21 See Westminster Confession of Faith, I:5.
22 See Westminster Confession of Faith, VIII: 8; X: 1-4; XI: 4; Larger Catechism, questions 58 and 59 and Shorter Catechism, questions 29 and 30; Belgic Confession, IX; XXIV; Heidelberg Catechism, question 53.
For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the self-same, by way of commandment, said unto His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). And so Paul preached the Word outwardly to Lydia, a purple-seller among the Philippians; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman's heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, upon elegant gradation fitly placed in the tenth chapter to the Romans, at last infers, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).23
As one can see, the Second Helvetic Confession made the distinction between the "inward" and "outward" applicatory work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Holy Spirit instructs the people of God inwardly, but God has also decided to instruct the people of God concerning his will through the outward preaching of the Word of God. The Second Helvetic Confession refers to the preaching of the Word as the "usual way of men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandments and examples" (I:7). It is apparent, therefore, that in the context of the human exegete or the preacher, another dimension has been added to our original structure of act (God's activity) precedes interpretation (the Bible). The structure now looks like this: act precedes God's infallible interpretation (Bible), which in turn precedes human fallible interpretation (preacher or exegete).
If Biblical Theology is the prime discipline in the theological encyclopedia, then the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is its intimate companion.
When Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic enters into the realm of applying the Biblical text in our preaching, we must remain consistent to the continuum revealed in Holy Scripture and affirmed in the Reformed Confessions: event (God's act)? God's interpretation (Scripture)? our interpretation (our preaching, e.g., Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39). In light of the work of the Holy Spirit, it is imperative that the issue of application in our preaching not deviate from the bounds of this continuum. Simply, we must remain consistent with the coherent and progressive element of Biblical revelation as delivered by the Holy Spirit in the text of Scripture as he applies the work of Christ and the message of the text to the hearts of God's covenant people. From God's performance in history, to the Holy Spirit recording his performance in written form as well as the Holy Spirit applying the written Word of God's performance in the hearts of the church, the continuum is bonded in God's covenant oath and faithfulness in Jesus Christ. The work of the Father and the Spirit is centered upon the Son; the focus of Scripture is also upon the work of Christ (Lk. 24:27, 44-47).
With the continuum in mind, we turn to the issue of application.
Specifically, the Scripture knows nothing of moral obedience outside our union
with the saving work of Christ in his historical life, death and resurrection as
the ground of the imputation of his righteousness to the sinner (justification;
Rom. 4:25; 5:19), death to sin in the sinner (definitive sanctification; Rom.
6:6-7), and the continuing sanctifying work of Christ's Spirit in the believer
(progressive sanctification; Rom. 6:12-13). In terms of the operation of the triune
God of the Bible, history, soteriology, and ethics are inseparable companions;
moral or ethical duty and obedience cannot be separated from the historical
saving activity of God. For this reason the preacher must not drive a wedge
The directive should be understandable. The sanctifying Spirit of God accompanies the preaching of the Word as the preacher draws the congregation as participants into the event and the interpretation of the event that the sanctifying Spirit has recorded for the church of Christ. As the congregation sees herself as participant in the event of the text and its interpretation, she sees herself as applying her participation in union with the text (grounded, rooted, and sustained by God's sanctifying Spirit) to the continuing eschatological drama of redemptive-historyto every single situation in which the believer is engaged. In other words, the eschatological drama of redemptive-history found in the Biblical text extends into the continuing life of Christ's church until Christ comes again (we see ourselves in the continuing tension of the "already" and "not yet"). In fact, we live in the same redemptive-historical period as the apostles, i.e., between the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and his second coming; we live in the eschatological drama of the two agesbelonging and living in "the age to come" while still living in the "present evil age." We are to see ourselves in the same redemptive-historical
26 Both of these quotes come from a sermon delivered by Rev. Charles G. Dennison at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, PA on Habakkuk 3:18-19/Galatians 2:20 on November 19, 1995.
For example, returning to Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, the preacher engages the congregation as participant in the event of the text, i.e., like the eunuch, the church is in need of those ordained by the Lord to unfold the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case, as revealed in the event of prophecy to Isaiah, which in turn directs us to the event of the suffering Christ. As Philip engages the eunuch as participant in the prophecy of Isaiah, likewise the present preacher engages the congregation with this event recorded in Acts. In our particular redemptive-historical context, however, the congregation will become a participant in three events in the text (the actual incident of Philip and the eunuch, the prophecy of Isaiah, and the fulfillment of that prophecy in the suffering servant, Jesus Christ). Herein is the salvation of the eunuch; it is in the work of Christ; likewise, herein is the salvation of any sinner! Hence, those who come to an understanding and belief in the gospel of Christ are to be baptized as members of his body. As we live in the continuing eschatological drama of redemptive-history, we know that the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Word, will apply the saving work of Christ in the hearts of men. Even in this text, we are observing that the total work of salvation is the complete operation of the triune God. Indeed, the Father has decreed those who are being saved in the efficacious work of Christ's death and resurrection as the Holy Spirit effects God's decree in Christ's redemption to the hearts and daily walk of God's children.
Beginning with the criticism of Biblical examples, I contend that most critics of Biblical Theology use Biblical examples as an instrument of aspiration. In this case, the Reformed pastor shapes the application of his message around an ethical or moral ideal (principle) as revealed in the Biblical example: e.g., Abraham's act of faith in offering Isaac, Moses' strength before Pharaoh, David's defiance of Goliath, and Christ quoting Scripture to thwart off Satan in the wilderness. The task of the pastor is to encourage his congregation to pursue or emulate the moral ideal as embodied in the Biblical character (the example) as models or "ideal types." We are to aspire to act and respond in our present situations as they did. In such a model often the language seems confusing enough to suggest that the moral ideal exists as an independent transcendent and eternal moral principle beyond us, and yet, it is parallel to God's existence which he alone is able to embody and conform. For example, just as Christ quoted Scripture to thwart Satan in His temptation, Christ (God) provides the moral example (ideal) for us to thwart Satan by quoting the Word of God in our temptations (Christ conforms to the transcendent principle). When such a presentation is conceived and delivered to the people of God, I believe the Reformed pastor feels uncomfortable with his presentation; he knows something is not right with his model. He knows that there is no independent transcendent principle outside of God and he knows that in light of man's fallen nature that it is impossible to duplicate the actions of Christ in our temptations by Satan. Simply, the pastor knows that the entire body of Christ fails to live up to the aspired model.
As the pastor is caught in this dilemma, he invokes his only
recourse; even though it is impossible, Jesus is there to help you with His Spirit. In
this case, the pastor believes he has preserved the ethical duty of the believer
by baptizing it with the power and assistance of the gospel. He believes that
such a construction has solved the dilemma. But there is a serious problem with
The Biblical directive is different than the Platonic model; in my judgment, the picture presented in Holy Scripture is one of assimilation, not aspiration. Herein, the believer assimilates the life pattern of the Biblical example.29
29 In discussing the various components of sanctification, John Murray's work is dominated by the term, "pattern." A careful examination of Murray's corpus leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Murray's terminology was deliberate; the moral and sanctifying life of the believer is not an aspiration to be achieved in one's own strength, but a life pattern conformed to the image of Christ (see his, Collected Writings of John Murray [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977] II: 277-317). In fact, Murray guards his readers against the concept of aspiration when he wrote: "There is a sense in which to aspire after the likeness of God is the epitome of iniquity" (ibid., 306). I believe that a thorough and careful reading of Murray's discussion on the components of sanctification will disclose a clear compatibility with the direction that I am taking. Moreover, it would be difficult to conceive of his discussion without the influence of his teacher, Geerhardus Vos.
As the preacher proclaims the message of Christ's temptation, he must grasp its redemptive-historical significance. The event of Christ's temptation in the wilderness is a reenactment of the event of Israel's temptation in their wilderness journey [note the parallels: the event takes place in a wilderness; forty days and nights (Christ) corresponds with forty years (Israel); Christ is tempted as "Son of God" corresponds with Israel's temptation as the "son of God" (Ex. 4:22-23; Deut. 8:5); every quote from Scripture recited by Christ to Satan is taken from the context of Israel's wilderness journey (Deut. 8:3; 6:16,13)]. Where Israel failed as "son of God" in their wilderness journey against Satan, Jesus Christ, the true Israelite, is victorious as the final and perfect "Son of God" in His wilderness journey against Satan. The point of Christ's temptation in the history of redemption is not to provide an example of one who meets the moral ideal, and thus, we are to do and conquer as Christ
In light of the redemptive-historical understanding of Christ's temptation, he is pictured as our example for conquering Satan. There is, however, only one way for us to experience and follow his example. By grace, through faith we are brought into union (participation) with Christ's efficacious obedience in this event as he moves towards the final episode of victory at the cross. So powerful is Christ's victory that the believer is drawn into the humiliation and exaltation of Christ's confrontation and conquest (his life-pattern). The life of the believer is captured and transformed into the example of Christ as he assimilates Christ's life-pattern of humiliation and exaltation. As the Spirit of God makes the application of his own interpretation (Holy Scripture) of the event to the heart of the believer, the believer now experiences the life-pattern of Christ as his life-pattern; indeed, in the sole power of God's
In light of everything that Christ has accomplished, could the preacher still encourage the congregation to use the Scriptures in our times of trial and temptation with Satan? Has Christ's accomplished victory over Satan negated the necessity for us to use and know God's Word as "the prince" of this world continues to entice the church? Even in light of what Christ accomplished, the church understands that it continues to exist in the eschatological tension of the "already" and "not yet" and that "the prince" of the present evil age is still real. Since we have not yet experienced the total glorification of our existence, we continue to battle the effects of sin in our being (Rom. 7). Again, however, we must be clear on the directive the believer must take here; we are to assimilate the life-pattern of Christ. Indeed, remaining clearly self-conscious of what has already been noted about the text, we follow the life-patternthe exampleof Christ. As Christ quoted the powerful and living Word of God in his humiliation against Satan, likewise, in our state of humiliation before Satan we are to confront him with the Word of God. We adopt this pattern in our union with Christ. The believer now knows, however, that only in faith-union with Christ's all-sufficient power, which is applied to the heart of the believer through the Holy Spirit, is there any hope of following Christ's example. And when the believer fails, there is the constant covenant bond of Christ's salvation and faithfulness that He has already secured the victory for his children. Herein, Christ's activity is not an ideal which we aspire to copy and reach, rather Christ's activity is a life-pattern which is to be followed, knowing that He has already accomplished everything for us (we are to live
Hopefully it has now become apparent that Reformed Biblical theologians have no problem following the directive of Scripture in Hebrews 11 and I Corinthians 10: 6-13. Of course, the author of Hebrews presents the men and women of faith in chapter eleven as examples to us. But what kind of examples are they? First, one must not fail to presuppose the event of God coming into a fallen creation and implementing His covenant of grace or promise. The faith described in the list of Old Testament saints is nonsense without presupposing the event of God's covenant because one of the main points of the examples are that they embraced the promises of the covenant without receiving its final blessings. Second and more specifically, they are examples of men and women who lived by faiththe faith described in verse one: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." This understanding of faith is driven home by the fact that "these [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah] all died in faith, not having received the
In I Corinthians 10:6-13, Paul provides an example of warning to the church. In this case, the warning is clear; if we aspire to assimilate the same life-pattern as Israel, i.e., lusting after evil things, idolatry, eating and drinking, fornication, then we will perish as they perished (cf. Heb. 3:1-4:11). Again, one needs to understand the way Paul is using example; he is placing it in the context of event (I Cor.10:7 refers to the incident of the golden calf in Ex. 32:6). In the event of their idolatry, they rejected life in union with the redeeming event of God's exodus (Ex. 32:1, 4b, 8b, 23). As they trade one life of assimilation for another, they will transform their allegiance of assimilation (union with Satan and his kingdom) into a world of aspiration; they aspire to be just like the Egyptians. Paul is very clear to the Corinthians; if they direct their steps in the exact same life style as those Israelites, then they will come under the same eschatological judgment of God.34 Likewise, in the
Another popular criticism of Reformed Biblical theological preaching is its alleged failure to use the imperative mood of the verb in preaching. Many critics believe that Biblical theologians give more attention to the indicative mood to the neglect of the imperative.35 Specifically, Biblical theological preaching fails to present a "proper balance" between the indicative and the imperative. Again, I am not convinced that the critics of Biblical Theology comprehend the revelatory-structure in which the Reformed Biblical theologian is operating. The Biblical theologian will not submit the indicative-imperative structure of Biblical ethics to the "golden mean" of a pragmatic rendition of Aristotelian ethics, i.e., that the extremes of the indicative as well as the imperative must be opposed for the sake of the "mean" (balance) between
As we keep in mind the continuum in Biblical revelation, the indicative-imperative construction is not to be modeled after Aristotle's balanced life in which we are to avoid extremes. Rather, the issue in the Bible is to understand its organic unity; the Christian life is the organic union of the indicative and the imperative. Our Savior is very clear: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." According to Christ, it is impossible to truly love Him, and yet be totally disobedient to Him. The Christian life is one of faith and obedience. Indeed, the indicative and the imperative are two distinct verb moods; the indicative mood "makes an assertion," or a "statement," whereas the im-
A Biblical understanding of the indicative denotes the believer's ethical existence in faith-union with the powerful redemptive-activity of God (event). Herein, it is common to view the indicative as describing the status of the believer's existence by virtue of the accomplished redemptive work of Christ in history. At this point, however, it is important not to view the indicative as merely descriptive, and therefore, as an abstract grammatical statement of the believer's condition in Christ. Rather, the indicative is descriptive of event (work of Christ) as the event itself possesses power. The believer in the event now possesses the power of God displayed as God maintains clearly the Creator-creature distinction. The power of the event as well as its saving content are applied to the life of God's children, e.g., when Christ died, I died; when Christ arose, I arose (cf. Rom. 6:11; II Tim. 2:11). Indeed, at the heart of the theological content of the indicative is an application component, e.g., the death and resurrection of Christ has been applied to the existence, identity, and status of the believer (he has died to sin and now lives in the newness of life; Rom. 6:8). Interestingly the indicative incorporates the foundation of Biblical application; it not only includes the accomplishment of redemption but it also includes the application of redemption as centered in the efficacious affect of the event. Specifically, God's act is performed; the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture records the act. Through the power of the Spirit and the power of the living and active Word of God, the efficacious work of God in the event is applied to the believer's life. If we start with man, the process is reversed. The preacher draws the believer into the divine power of the Bibli-
38 See William D. Dennison, "Indicative and Imperative: The Basic Structure of Pauline Ethics," 55-78, and Ridderbos's, Paul, 253-257.
Furthermore, the Spirit who interprets the event (text) is the same Spirit who drives the event into the soul as it encapsulates one's whole being to embrace joyfully and enthusiastically the imperative in response to God's saving work. In terms of the indicative-imperative structure, we are noting that in the imperative the believer is being commanded or exhorted to apply (imperative) what is already applied by grace to his life (indicative). Simply put, since your sin has already been totally crucified to the cross of Christ (indicative), you are commanded not to allow sin to reign in your mortal body (imperative; Rom. 6:8, 12). In the integrated and holistic moral Christian life, there is no imperative application without the indicative application, e.g., we cannot deny the power of sin in our life (imperative) without the power of the cross (event) in our life (indicative).39 Theologically speaking, the two moods of the verbs are inseparable and interwoven.40 Doctrine is life! The same Spirit mediates God's Word and the event into the progressive sanctification of the believer (Eph. 2:10). For this reason, one should never assume that the imperative appears independently in the Biblical text outside a redemptive-historical context (the indicative). Within this revelatory framework, the Reformed Biblical theologian preaches emphatically and passionately the imperatives of the Biblical text. In doing so, he is in compliance with the Biblical model, i.e., the imperative is grounded in the indicative, or the imperative is implied in the indicative. Or, we may say it another way, the imperative flows out of the indicative. Vos put it this way: the indicative effects or is the
40 Murray presented the idea"the interweaving of the indicative and the imperative" (Collected Writings, II: 280-281).
In this essay I have attempted to make a brief and preliminary defense that Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is the most
42 The entire soteriological enterprise comes to the people of God as gift; moreover, the entire soteriological enterprise is the sovereign work of the transformation of the sinner. Just as God is the alpha and the omega, the first and last in terms of his self-identity; likewise our existence of salvation begins in God and it is consummated in God. It is truly an eschatological existence; this personal dimension of our eschatological existence corresponding with God's eschatological identity must not be trivialized. Herein, history, eschatology, soteriology and ethics are interwoven. For this reason, the Biblical theologian refuses to understand obedience and sanctification outside such a Biblical paradigm. Indeed, in line with Calvin's presentation of the third use of the law, the Reformed Biblical theologian will definitely continue to maintain and declare the law as a positive rule in the present life of the believer in order to understand God's will and confirm one's existence in the law. Calvin outlines the problem clearly which must be addressed and confronted in every believer: "however, eagerly they [believer] may in accordance with the Spirit strive toward God's righteousness, the listless flesh always so burdens them that they do not proceed with due readiness. The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work" (Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960] II:7:xii, 361). Indeed, even in this continuing conflict or battle which exists for the believer as he is a pilgrim on earth, Calvin holds that such an understanding of the law is not devoid of the present reign and work of the Holy Spirit as well as the intercessory work of Jesus Christ in the believer. The Spirit as well as Christ's work is fundamental and foundational to the third use of the law. It is this point that the Reformed Biblical theologian will not relinquish; furthermore, it is this point that he attempts to enrich by grounding the third use of the law more deeply in the redemptive-historical work of Christ and His Spirit. In other words, you will only understand the nature of God's will and the confirmation of his law if you understand the death and resurrection of Christ (event) through his Spirit. The full exposition and exposure of the nature of God's will and the truth of His law is at the cross! We must not forget that this is where Sinai is pointing; herein we also invoke the position of Calvin who habitually asserted "that the law has validity only as it is related to Christ" (ibid., 348, n.1). Calvin's own words are so potent here: "In the law and in Christ signify as much as by the law and by Christ, according to the Hebrew phrase" (Commentary Upon the Acts of the Apostles, ed. Henry Beveridge, trans. Christopher Fetherstone [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957] I: 543).
now death comes.
the beast rushes at the shortness
of my breath
bent on the feast.
But I stared you down,
you damned coward!
This once I stand my ground.
My anger rises, rips and tears;
streaked with blood,
I grab the sword from Saul's
their silent gaze
arm and leg and lung,
hacked and separated,
this boast itself grows old
and I give way
wound and buried to tears
taunting my frivolous triumph
until the stones roll back;
seed to grain,
shade to light,
I see him at my door's
and me unbound
by his call,
the all in all.
It would appear that the obvious point of this passage is the sin of lust, including everything that incites to lust. The ready application would be an attack on the pornography industry which Judge Robert Bork has called a "national plague." Mainland China is not about to permit digital pornography to become a national plague within her Internet lines, so she has banned it: `Puritanism' with a Marxist face! Ironically, the guardians of America's reading habits, the American Library Association (ALA), have taken the opposite tack from Communist Chinarestriction of pornography on the Internet, even in public libraries, would be a serious violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and an insidious threat to our liberties. The Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union are still reeling from the recent United States Supreme Court ruling upholding the Children's Internet Protection Act which requires local libraries to place filters on their Internet computers so as to block sexually explicit material.
Ever since Hugh Hefner discovered that airbrush pornography sells, American males have been exercising their liberties. And if Bob Guccione's Penthouse empire eschewed the airbrush, it was to outsell the Playboy centerfold. Alas, we must give equal time to the liberties of the female devotees of pornographyPlaygirl and other assorted beefcake erotica are a testimony to the EPAEqual Pornography for All.
The degradation and dehumanization of men and women in reducing them to the genital is an ugly and vicious depravity. Nor is the evangelical and Reformed church exempt from the plague. Ministers are guilty of adultery with their parishioners; counselors are guilty of adultery with their counselees; educational leaders are guilty of adultery with their secretaries. I knew a seminary professor who had his Playboy subscription sent to his seminary mailbox, not to avoid his wife's notice, but to advertise his liberty to the student body when he peeled off the wrapper each month. The social consequences of this dreadful liberty for pornography are legion: rape, murder, abuse, frigidity, bondage, chains, whips, sadomasochism.
But we have not so learned Christ. And we are quick to point to the Sermon on the Mount as providing the consummate warning against illicit sexual fantasy including titillation from photo, video, digital image. As good Augustinians, we acknowledge that sineven sexual sinbegins in concupiscence. Or, as Paul puts it in Romans 7 (and I paraphrase): sin is first in the desire before it is in the deed.
And so we quote Matthew 5:28 as a standard proof-text for the connection between sin in the heart and sin in the act. We are careful to guard our exegesis from overkill by noting the prepositional phrase "to lust after her." Not every look upon a woman is adultery of the heart. Female beauty may be admired, as may male handsomeness. But the gaze, which has as its intent the illicit sexual use of a woman or a man, is equivalent to a violation of the seventh commandment. Hence we warn men and women everywhere to repent of adulterous desires as well as adulterous acts.
The difficulty with this viewpoint is that there appear to have been a number of contemporary first century Jewish traditions prohibiting lust of the eye. For instance, the so-called Testament of Isaac commands: "do not look at a woman with a lustful eye." The Testament of Issachar reads: "nor was I promiscuous by lustful look." And the Leviticus Rabbah virtually echoes Jesus: "even the one who commits adultery with his eye is called an adulterer." My point is that the uniqueness of Jesus' teaching on sexual ethics in the Sermon on the Mount is notnot that adultery includes the lust of the eye as well as the lust of the flesh. This concept appears to have been commonplace in first century Judaism.
Well then, if Jesus is not contributing a unique new moral insightthe "mental" dimension of illicit sexualitywhat is he doing in Matthew 5:28? If he is not merely focusing on an internal moralistic category, what is his unique teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount? To answer this question, we must examine the context of Matthew 5:27-28. We cannot remove this passage from its context so as to atomize its ethical truth. We must see Jesus' ethical teaching in broader contextin the broader context of Matthew's gospel.
Now the broader context of the gospel of Matthew is the
fullnessthe fullness of the history of redemption with the coming of Christ. In
Matthew 3:15, Jesus says to John the Baptist that he has come to "fulfill all
righteousness." And what particularly
is this fullness? "And from that time Jesus
began to preach and say, `Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Mt.
4:17). The dawn of the kingdom of heaven and the era of eschatological
fullnessthat is what Jesus is proclaiming in Matthew's gospel. But notice,
interestingly, this eschatological fullness replays the past history of Israel. In
Matthew 2, Jesus descends into Egypt. In Matthew 3, Jesus passes through
the waters. In Matthew 4, Jesus goes to the wilderness for forty days and
It is the fullness, which has arrived in Matthew 5; it is this eschatological fullness, which is new and distinctive and unique as we read the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot read Matthew 5:27-28 without understanding Matthew 1-5 and the arrival of the fullness of the kingdom of heaven. We arrive at the new mount (Mt. 5:1) and at this eschatological mountain, we hear the lawthe law of the kingdom of heaven. The eschatological law of the eschatological kingdoma heavenly kingdom and its heavenly law.
Jesus, the new mountain, the law in the context of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. It jumps right out at us in the list of beatitudesMatthew 5:3-10. Notice the first beatitude: "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And the last beatitude (v. 10): "blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The beatitudes are enclosed by the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven forms an inclusio around the blesseds attached to the time which Jesus brings. The kingdom of heaven has come and the meek are blessed; the time of the kingdom has come and the merciful are blessed, the pure in heart are blessed, the peacemakers are blessed. And why are the blessed? Because heaven is a blessed place. Every one of the beatitudes is an anticipation of the blessed arena of the kingdom of heaven.
So (and here is the unique and singular element in Jesus' teaching in
the Sermon on the Mount)Jesus' Sermon on the New Mount is a sermon
about life in the kingdom. It is a sermon about life in heaven. Jesus is telling
his disciplestelling us: here is what it is like to live out of the kingdom of
heaven. It is to possess the kingdom now; it is to possess heaven now; it is to live
now as a mirror image of the heavenly kingdom in this world, even as we await
the arrival of the consummate fullness of the world to come. Our life in Christ
This is not moralism, nor is it legalism. This is not abstracting the law as an absolutistic legal order. No, Jesus is transferring the law to heaven and he is saying to his disciples who live in the kingdom of heavennow, live out of heavenlive out of the law of the kingdom of heaven. Live as if you were in front of the face of God in heaven. That, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is Jesus' unique contribution to ethics in the Sermon on the Mount.
Return with me to our text, Matthew 5:27-28. Let us now consider this text in the full light of its context. Let us consider Matthew 5:27-28 in the light of the fullnessthe eschatological fullnessthe redemptive historical fullness of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. Imagine yourself immersed in the atmosphere, the environment, the arena of heaven itself. You are seated before the throne of God; you are nestled at his footstool basking in the glory-presence of the King of kings: your mind, your heart, your body are transformed by that arenathat heavenly glory. Can you commit adultery in heaven? In heaven, can you gaze upon a woman, upon a man, with lust? The purity indeed the holiness of heaven cannot abide lewd thoughts, let alone lewd acts. So those who belong to the kingdom of heaven are powerfully and wonderfully moved by the atmosphere to which they belongby the King of the kingdom to whom they belongby the heavenly life they now possess. Reduce a man or a woman to a sexual object? an object of personal gratification? an object of selfish sexual gratification? No! Heaven won't allow it! My heavenly kingdom-life will not permit it! My Savior has brought me into the arena he inhabitsinto heavenand he has given me, ever so graciously given me, the life he now lives by the power of his resurrection from sin and death. Resurrection life is the life of the kingdom I now inhabit; resurrection life is the life of the kingdom of heaven and I now live in the life of that heavenly kingdom.
My union with Christ is a sweet union with the resurrection life of
the kingdom of heaven. And out of that Christ-centered, heaven oriented,
Jesus is asking you to measure your gazewhat you look atby the standards of heaven. Is this not exceedingly helpful in our struggles with sexual temptation and sin? What I look at must be measured by the standard of heaven. Could I look at that picture, that movie, that screen, that scene if I were in heaven? Could I look upon that woman or that man in that picture, that movie, that screen, that scene if I were in heaven? Pornography is bondage; beefcake erotica is bondagethey are slavery, slavery to the base, crass, vile degradation and dehumanization of another being made in the image of God. Jesus is helping us immensely here in the Sermon on the Mount; he is placing human sexual ethics in the light of the glory of heaven.
With every adulterous temptation, with every lascivious inducement, with every lewd image, I turn my heart to heaven and rejoice that Jesus has united me unto himself, that he has seated me already in his heavenly kingdom, that he turns my mind to things aboveto the wonderful blessings of life before his glorious face. And so I see women as Christ sees themmade wonderfully, beautifully in God's own imagenot to be degraded, debauched, dehumanized, reduced to objects. And so the Christian woman sees menfearfully and wonderfully made in God's imagenot to be seduced, manipulated, tantalized, reduced to or toyed with as objects of illicit fantasy.
In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus provides a new motivation for the sons
and daughters of his kingdom. He says, "I have brought you to this new and
eschatological mountain in order to show you the fullnessin order to
show you what was veiled from even Moses' face. I have brought you to this
new and eschatological mountain so that you may understand what I have
brought with me into history. And as you live out of the fullness of the kingdom
which I have brought into history, little children, live as if you were living in
heaveneven now. Live as if you were standing before the glorious throne of
Godeven now. Live out of the life given to you from above." Live with delight
in your husband, your wifeeven as Christ lives with delight in his
Sons and daughters of the kingdom of heaven, walk even now as the children of the eschatological kingdom in union with the eschatological King.
[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 49-50]
Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission: Jesus and the Twelve (vol. 1); Paul and the Early Church (vol. 2). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 1928 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 0-8308-2790-0 (set). $90.
Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has compiled an impressive survey of Christian missions from the era of the Old Testament and Inter-testamental Judaism (including Apocrypha, Qumran and Rabbinical sources) to the era of Christ and the apostolic church. Focusing on the message of Jesus as an evangelistic missions proclamation (inclusive of Jew and Gentile), Schnabel details the unfolding attraction of the message of God's Son as it spreads through the Greco-Roman world of the first century. As such, we have in these two volumes a virtual encyclopedia of the first Christian century from the advent of Christ to the end of the apostolic period. In many ways, this set is a detailed commentary on the gospels and the book of Acts. We have meticulous details on places (geography), names (history) and gospel message (theology) from Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15) to Paul's (Acts 28:30-31). The whole is copiously footnoted with a bibliography of nearly 200 pages.
Yet Schnabel is a defender of the accuracy and historicity of the
biblical recorda refreshing confirmation of more traditional views, even as he
explores the voluminous literature in search of support for that
apologia. In the process, he provides a carefully worked out chronology of the era of
Christ and the apostlesespecially the missionary journeys of Paul. His defense
As a comprehensive exegesis of Christian mission theology and strategy in the first century A.D., these volumes are a tour de force. They are also, in the main, a refreshing confirmation of conservative and orthodox conviction about the New Testament. The reader is not only stimulated by the detail, he is encouraged by the theology of mission as it arises from Christ and his inspired apostles. Indeed, they undergird our mission from the transformation of the ages which dawned upon us when the Word became flesh and commissioned us as his witnesseseven to the end of the age!
James T. Dennison, Jr.
[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 50-53]
Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 395 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8028-2771-3. $16.50.
The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series was originally conceived as a brief, up-to-date, evangelical exposition of each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. First published from 1956, it is now being completely rewritten so as to maintain the `up-to-date' status. Kruse is Lecturer in New Testament at the Bible College of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia; his volume replaces that of R.V.G. Tasker (1960).
This is a workmanlike effort with conservative endorsement of
Johannine authorship, ontic Christology, textual integrity (chapter 21 is
not an appendix by a different author), evangelical soteriology and adequate
perception of current scholarship. The current hot-button issue in John studies
is anti-Semitism; Kruse addresses this issue very well (50). The overview
of current trends in fourth gospel research is handled adequately. Yet, the
commentary appears to reflect little use of these studies, particularly recent
narrative, structural and biblical-theological investigations. Kruse, while aware
Kruse is to be commended for pointing out the infelicities, misrepresentations and outright additions which the NIV translators make of and to the fourth gospel. This is particularly grievous in a translation which millions of evangelicals take for gospel. In fact, the NIV is a translator's travesty (the NASB is far superior) and Kruse routinely points this out in his remarks.
It is refreshing to learn that our author has not yielded to the pandemic functional Christology of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His exegesis of John 1:1c is Trinitarian; he renders John 1:18 as "God the One and Only" (74); and he does not shy away from Thomas's acknowledgment of the deity of Christ (Jn. 20:28). Still, his note on monogenes ("only begotten") (71) is a capitulation to the contemporary evangelical translation of this term as "unique", "singular", etc. (cf. the NIV on Jn. 1:18 and 3:16). It appears to escape the erstwhile modern evangelical that if God the Father has a Son and that Son is unique and singular, the way in which he (the Son) is related to the Father is by filiation (to use the technical term) or by "eternal generation" ( to use the patristic term). What other term comports with the Son addressing the Father as Father, and the Father addressing the Son as Son? Surely, to take pater and hyios seriously in the inspired Greek text is to understand that this one and only Father generates (eternally) his one and only Son. And precisely that dynamic relationship is communicated by the term monogenes ("only begotten"). The Father is the Eternal Begetter; the Son is the Eternally (albeit Only) Begotten. Simple!
Sampling some of the highlights of Kruse's work. He is very good on
the symbolism of the Jewish purification jars at the wedding at Cana
(94-95)but he misses the structural inclusio which delimits the passage. "Born
of water and the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5) is a hendiadys, i.e., "a figure of speech
using two different words to denote one thing" (regeneration) (107). This is
While very clear on the supernatural character of the miracle-signs in the fourth gospel, Kruse misses the mimetic (i.e., imitative or mirror character) egô eimi in John 9:9 (the man born blind uses the self-revelatory formula of Jesus himself as an imitatio Christi, for he has wonderfully been folded into union with the identity of the supreme I AM who has given him light out of heaven). The same paradigm returns in John 11. Lazarus and Jesus become mimetic mirrors of one another: Jesus drawn to Lazarus's death and resurrection as Lazarus becomes the prototype for Jesus' death and resurrection.
Kruse identifies the eight sequential scenes of Christ's trial before Pilate (Jn. 18:12-19:16), but without acknowledging Raymond Brown as the source of the paradigm (cf. the latter's Anchor Bible commentary, vol. 2:859), nor matching up the parallel sides of the descending and ascending parabola (trough and transition in the scourging of Jesus, 19:1-4). With respect to Pilate's fear of Christ as a threat to his own gubernatorial seat, Kruse invokes the paranoia of Tiberius Caesar, but fails to consider the death of Sejanus as a possible raison d'être. If Tiberius had executed Sejanus for presuming too much, and Sejanus had procured Judea for his friend, Pontius Pilate, and Pilate knows of Tiberius's removal of his praetorian patron, is it not possible that Pilate too looks over his shoulder to the west and is very, very cautious not to arouse suspicion (or attention) about his rôle from Jewish fanatics? Hand washing is preferable to imperial scrutiny!
James T. Dennison, Jr.
[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 53-55]
Donald W. Howard, Jr., Renewal of Worship: Caring for the People, A Resource Guide. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005. 233 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-7618-3047-2, $35.00.
According to the back cover of this book, our author is a veteran pastor of twenty-two years in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and is now an educator in New York as a consultant for New York State Charter School aspirants.
The basic concern of the book is that pastors must know their church members intimately in their daily life in order to make the worship of the church meaningful. He states that the decline of the church is directly related to the irrelevance of what transpires in worship to the lives of those seated in the pews. To remedy this, the pastor must meet the people where they are: "at work, whether a school, home, hospital, gas station, supermarket, factory, nursing home, courtroom, or barn. It means sitting on the curb talking with a teenager about school and home pressures, sitting in a fishing boat with a lonely widower, or walking through the woods on opening day of buck seasonwherever your congregation works or plays becomes the place for the pastor to visit" (18-19).
The book is divided into two parts. The first part takes the theme of the book and develops it along five lines: Worship as pastoral care; The role of the pastor; The role of the laity; Getting into the field: the pastor as sower, cultivator, and gleaner; and finally, Bringing in the sheaves: the resultant meaningful worship.
He spends three chapters on the sacraments. He advocates making infant baptism a very special occasion by giving to the child a candle (as in a birthday) and then writing him/her a letter to be placed in a scrapbook telling of the importance of the occasion. He does not think it is a good idea for the pastor to take the child and go parading up and down the aisles of the church showing him/her off to all of the worshippers.
He also asserts the importance of celebrating the Lord's Supper weekly, but not without the preaching of the Word. "The Word and the Sacraments are understood as events in worship for the entire congregation. If either the Word or the Sacraments are emphasized to the exclusion of the other, this results in an incomplete and distorted experience of worship" (88).
In dealing with special services, he has four chapters on hatched (baptism), matched (marriage), and dispatched (funeral). He finishes this section with three chapters, each one dealing with prayer, music, and the liturgical year. In the latter, he advocates using the liturgical calendar, going through the year from Advent to Pentecost. His reasoning is, "the liturgical calendar helps the worshipper see the redemptive work of God through His Son Jesus Christ. The calendar shows that worship is more than an isolated act, separated from one's everyday life experiences. In worship the church participates in the movement from Christ's birth through His sufferings, to His resurrection and Kingship. In following these events as its pattern for worship, the church encompasses all the dimensions of God's plan for the salvation of His people" (187-88).
In his final word, Pastor Howard says, "In order to insure that the service remains meaningful and participatory, the pastor requires knowledge of his or her congregation. Here, pastoral care comes into the service of worship. This book was intended as a means to revive the notion of pastoral care as essential to the worship of God" (211-12).
J. Peter Vosteen
[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 55-57]
Jeff A. Benner, Learn to Read Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Learning the Hebrew Alphabet, Vocabulary and Sentence Structure of the Hebrew Bible. College Station, TX: Virtualbookworm Publishing, 2004. 120 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-58939-584-0. $12.95.
One of the biggest difficulties for students entering first year Hebrew is overcoming the alphabet barrier. Many beginning Hebrew grammars have students memorize the entire alphabet and then move on. Here is where this book possesses its greatest strength. Each chapter introduces students to two or three consonants and one or two vowels, taking eleven short chapters to teach the whole alphabet. Each chapter introduces vocabulary words and exercises only containing those letters introduced so far in the book. This allows students to gradually learn the alphabet and overcome the hurdle it poses without becoming overwhelmed.
It also contains a useful chart comparing letters that look alike (61). These letters sometimes confuse beginning students.
However, the book does not deliver on its title. While it provides short comments to help students find the root (sometimes helpful, cf. p. 49 on final he and initial nun), it provides no explanation for the nif`al, pi`el, pu`al, hitpa`el, or hif`il. The book is too incomplete to learn to read Biblical Hebrew. Instead, it would best serve as an introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet (or Alephbet, as the author prefers).
There are two points to note about thisfirst, the pedagogical one. Most grammars are on more solid ground, having students memorize a limited amount of vocabulary and then practicing it in readings. Memorizing lists is usually less helpful. Second, while a reviewer with a greater knowledge of Hebrew etymology is needed to recognize the propriety of Benner's two-consonant parent roots, this clearly sets up a system (88) that he will develop in his proposed new Hebrew lexicon.
Here the assumption (already present in this introductory book) is that every Hebrew word has a concrete (as opposed to an abstract) meaning. In many cases, the concrete meaning of each three-consonant (child) Hebrew root derives from the concrete meaning of its two-consonant root parent. Thus, the parent root BL gives birth to BLH ("aged"; a "flowing away of youth") and BHL ("panic"; "a flowing of the insides," 88). Benner considers the more concrete meaning to be the real Hebrew meaning, while the first meaning comes closer to our Greek abstract mindset. Behind this dichotomy lies the ghost of Thorleif Boman's book Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek which Benner promotes on the website noted in his book.
While most Hebrew scholars may not accept Benner's conclusions at this point (and the fact that he is an engineer, turned self-trained Hebrew teacher may not help him), some fundamentalists will. And it may be that his pragmatic approach to the language will provide an underpinning for their pragmatic moralism.
Still, as an introduction to the Hebrew alphabet this book may be
helpful for some. But even for that purpose, the book could use some rewriting.
Sometimes it doesn't introduce all the vocabulary needed for a readingit
would be helpful if it did. Occasionally it mentions letters with their
transliterated name, but fails to write them out in Hebrew. This can be confusing for
the introductory student. There are also a few typos. An
aleph is put for a zayin
Overall, the book may be useful for those needing to ease into the alphabet for the first time, but it needs to be followed by another first-year text. And if that other text suffices, this one may not be needed.
Scott F. Sanborn
[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 57-59]
Glenn S. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism: The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557-1552. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003. 193 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 1-9311-1228-2. $49.95.
What factors influenced the institutional development of the French Reformed church during the 16th century? Glenn Sunshine argues that the typical perception of these churches as nothing more than miniature Genevan colonies fails to do justice to the innovative ecclesiastical model that arose in the French church as a result of their unique situation in Catholic France (10-11). In fact, Sunshine's central argument is that the institutional development of the French Reformed church was not primarily the result of an imported Geneva ecclesiology, but rather was more attributable to original structural innovations that occurred in response to their own unique circumstances. Furthermore, Sunshine argues, these French Reformed ecclesiastical features subsequently spread to other Reformed churches abroad and became an integral part of the Calvinist tradition in Western Europe (167). To support his thesis, Sunshine's book documents the complexities of the institutional development of the French Reformed church in France during the 16th century.
Departing from the socio-economic models typically used to explain
this expansion, the book begins by detailing the growth of French
Protestantism and argues that the movement drew from a diverse range of social and
economic classes in different locales. As this emerging diverse French
Protestant church grew, the need to adopt a unified doctrinal statement and a
common system of church polity became increasingly apparent. The result was
An additional challenge that the French churches faced was how to appoint and manage local pastors. This task was believed to be too important to be entrusted solely to the laity of a local congregation without sacrificing the important principle of congregational autonomy (since the French resisted the Genevan tendency toward centralization). Eventually, the Colloquy emerged as a formal part of French Protestant polity; it would become the primary instrument of pastoral selection and oversight.
Sunshine also argues that French Protestant church polity evidenced
an eclectic blend of Reformed and non-Reformed elements at the local
church level (especially evident in the features of the diaconate). The French
deacons differed from their Geneva counterparts with respect to their liturgical
and catechetical duties (features that they shared in common with the
Catholic diaconate), but also with regard to their participation in the consistory
(119). In light of the unique situation of the French churches (especially the
shortage of qualified people to fill ecclesiastical offices), the deacons of the
Sunshine then discusses the important place that the house churches of the nobles played in France, especially their independent status with regard to the collective governmental structure of the synods (which they often disregarded). Additionally, he describes the tenuous and fragile relationship between the Reformed consistories and the civil magistrates, since in most cases the magistrates were controlled by Catholics who were hostile to the Reformed cause (not to mention the natural tensions that arose with regard to competing claims of jurisdiction). In addition, since the French king was also hostile to the Protestant cause, the primary liaisons the Reformed churches established with the royal court was the representation afforded by the Protestant nobility.
This book provides an interesting account of the institutional development of the French Reformed churcha history that is made all the more interesting in light of the hostile environment from which it emerged. Sunshine ably documents the differences between the structural ecclesiology of the Genevan and French Reformed churches at both the local and collective governmental levelsdifferences which are too significant to ignore. As a result, his thesis appears to be established that the institutional development of the French Reformed church must be considered in light of their attempt to apply Reformed ecclesiastical principles in the context of the unique circumstances they faced.
C. Ryan Jenkins