Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jobs Saved?

The President of the United States can't create or really even save jobs. At best a president can get out of the way of innovative, hard-working people to allow them to create and save jobs. I get my news online and I noticed that when the President made an appearance on The View, he was asked only one challenging question, and that was from the only conservative on the program and it was about the whole White House language of "jobs saved." There is no measurable means of determining how many jobs were saved.

If you have 8% unemployment and that goes up to 10%, it doesn't sound like you saved any jobs. What they're saying is that "it could have been worse." We don't know that. However, let's say that more people could have lost their jobs than who did. Saving a job is not the same thing as creating a job and it isn't even necessarily really saving a job. Money wasn't even redistributed. It was just printed. It was wealth that we didn't even produce. But the money was sent to states to keep government workers employed. Once that money runs out, where is that money going to come from? Actual jobs must be created for enough revenue to be raised to pay for those government positions.

So yes, more debt was produced and people got to keep their jobs for a little longer. But jobs paid for with borrowed money aren't going to last without borrowing more money. They've been "saved," but somebody is going to have to pay now for the debt created to prolong someone's employment. We didn't really save a job as much as we put off the inevitable. Paying someone's salary with borrowed money is nothing more than another economic bubble.

By the way, the same economic bubble still exists in the housing market. For over a year, people bought houses to take advantage of $8,000 tax credits also paid for with borrowed money. It produced an artificially maintained housing market as people sought to get their tax credit. The banks also have not released all of their foreclosures for fear of what the glut of houses on the market would do to home prices. The banks would lose a tremendous amount of equity on their repossessed homes. They have artificially kept the prices of homes up by both holding on to the properties and by attempting to deal with delinquent mortgage payments. The bubble created by both the factor of the tax credits and the manipulation of the banks is bound to pop. One could say that the combination of these two aspects has "saved jobs," i. e. again just put off the inevitable.

So there we have our "jobs saved." I would contend that a job hasn't been saved if a job wasn't created. You and your neighbor could hire each other to dig a ditch in each others' yard. You dig his and he pays you. He digs yours and you pay back to him the money he paid you. See how two new jobs were created. Of course, not really. That is akin to what's happening with "jobs saved" in this country and according to this White House.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More on "It Is Written"

When you read "it is written" in the New Testament, what tense of verb does that sound like to you? Does it sound past? No. Does it sound present? Yes. But is it present? No. It's actually a perfect tense verb. It's also passive. If it were translated how a Greek student is taught in first year Greek class, it would be "it has been written." Why? Well, the action of the perfect tense is past, and actually completed in the past. The perfect tense speaks of completed action. So why does the action sound like it isn't completed in the translation "it is written"? It sounds like the translator is attempting to make the action sound present and continuous, not past and finished. Well, there is one more aspect to the perfect tense, that is, the action is complete, yes, but the results of that action continue into the present from the perspective of the speaker and, therefore, his original audience. Those hearing the speaker use the perfect tense would know that the results had continued from that past action up until their day. So why do the translators translate "it is written" with a sense of the present? They wanted the readers to understand that the results of what had been written were still around in the present. Those letters and words weren't written in the present, but they sound like it by the way the verb is translated. All that is still around, however, are the results of the writing, that is, the letters and the words. The writing isn't continuing. The results of the writing are.

James Hope Moulton in his 1906 grammar wrote that the perfect tense is "the most important, exegetically, of all the Greek Tenses." Since it is used far less frequently than the other verb tenses---the present, the aorist, the imperfect, or the future---the writer makes a deliberate choice when choosing it. He has a particular point in using the perfect, selecting its unique purpose to communicate a specific meaning. At least one Greek grammarian explains that the perfect tense is used to "describe an act that has abiding results." But he isn't alone, others have shared this same thought (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and more). Others use the terminology "ongoing results" (here, here, here, here, here, and more). Others have used the terminology "permanent state" (here, here, here, and more) or "permanent result" (here, here, here, and more). Donald J. Mastronarde in his Introduction to Attic Greek (1993) (p. 280) writes: "The perfect stem of a Greek verb conveys the aspect of completed action with a continuing or permanent result." Peter Bullions in his The Principles of Greek Grammar (1866) writes: "Hence the perfect is generally used to denote a lasting or permanent state or an action finished in itself, and therefore often occurs in Greek, where, in English, we use the present." In Syntax of New Testament Greek (University Press of America, 1988), James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery write (pp. 104-5): "The perfect tense expresses perfective action. Perfective action involves a present state which has resulted from a past action. The present state is a continuing state; the past action is a completed action." Eugene Van Ness Goetchius in The Language of the New Testament writes (p. 293): "The Greek perfect differs from the Greek aorist in that it emphasizes the continuing result of the action which was completed in past time." Spiros Zodiates in his Reference Bible says that the perfect tense “looks at an action as having been completed in the past but as having existing results.”

Concerning "it is written" having ongoing or permanent results, others have made this same point. Alfred Plummer in his commentary on John writes this (p. 210):

Hath spoken, i. e. that Moses received a revelation which still remains. This is a frequent meaning of the perfect tense— to express the permanent result of a past action. Thus the frequent formula gegraptai is strictly 'it has been written,'or 'it stands written:' i.e. it once was written, and the writing still remains.

Kenneth Wuest, longtime Greek professor at Moody, writes in his Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Volume Two (p. 12):

It is written, gegraptai; the perfect tense, speaking of an act completed in past time having present results, is used here to emphasize the fact that the Old Testament records were not only carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation to the first century, but that they are a permanent record of what God said.

Later on p. 120, Wuest writes:

In Matthew 4:4, our Lord answers Satan, "It is written." The perfect tense is used. He quoted from Deuteronomy. The words had been written by Moses 1500 years before, but are still on record. . . . A good translation reads, "It stands written." It is the eternal word of God.

Many others agree with this point on gegraptai (hereand very strongly here). All of these following men see "it stands written" as a good translation: Broadus, Weymouth NT, Henry Morris, John A. Witmer in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, and MacArthur (see 1 Cor 1:19) among others.

An indication of the importance of the perfect tense can be seen in Romans 4 in two different uses of the Greek verb grapho. First in v. 17:

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Verse 17 refers to Scripture, Genesis 17:5. In that verse, the perfect passive, gegraptai is used. Then look at v. 23.

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him.

Here we read "it was not written," and since that is not referring to Scripture, we have the aorist passive of grapho used. D. B. Ford in the American Commentary on the New Testament writes concerning verse 23:

We have here one of those instances of the niceties of Greek syntax, which cannot easily be fully exhibited in a translation. The formula "as it is written" occurs very often in the New Testament, in introducing passages from the Old. In such cases the verb is in the perfect tense, while here it is in what is called the aorist. The perfect always has a reference to the present time, describing the action as past indeed, but also as abiding in its permanent consequences; while the aorist simply describes the action as finished in some past time. The difference may be sufficiently represented in English by the expressions: "It stands written," and "it was written." Hence the propriety of the use of the perfect in the ordinary cases of quotation from the Old Testament, where the Scripture quoted is conceived of as a permanent record.

Recently I quoted Daniel Wallace from his note on Romans 3:10 in the section on the perfect tense in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Wallace is clear to say that the perfect tense has results that continue to the present from the point of view of the author. Even if we hold ourselves to that position, we can agree with Wallace on this grammatical point that he writes:

This common introductory formula to OT quotations seems to be used to emphasize that the written word still exists.

So why that use of the perfect? According to Wallace "to emphasize that the written word still exists." Then he begins making exegetical or theological points about authority, but he starts that section by saying, "Although just beyond the reach of grammar." He's more sure about the point of the perfect being about the continued existence of what was written more than he is the other. What Wallace writes about the perfect passive of gegraptai reminds me of what I read in J. A. Alexander's commentary on Matthew:

It is written, more exactly, has been written, the perfect tense suggesting the additional idea of its having been not only uttered long ago, but ever since on record and awaiting its fulfilment.

So does "it is written" indicate something about the preservation of what God inspired, what was originally written? The perfect tense is more rare than the other tenses, and, therefore, more important, because when it is used, it is making some point that differentiates its usage from the other tenses. I believe that in addition to the other arguments on preservation, it should be paid attention to. Others think the same. Not until recently has anyone said that gegraptai doesn't make this point of preservation, and those simply to undermine the idea of the perfect preservation of the text. The arguments read like people who are desperate to keep alive the prospects of an imperfect Bible. They can't even have gegraptai mean what men have already said it means, because it would hurt the cause of the eclectic or critical text. Here are some of the comments that were written to me about this gegraptai argument:

It reads too much into Jesus’ choice of tense. I sincerely doubt any of Jesus’ hearers thought that His use of the perfect meant that the quotation would continue to exist in its quoted form ad infinitum. In fact, I sincerely doubt that Christ’s hearers thought about his use of the perfect at all.

You could call that the "historic mind reading" argument. He just knows that Jesus hearers wouldn't have thought anything about a choice of tense. And he's sincere. He needs not produce anything but sincerity and you've got to just believe that.

Here was someone elses argument in its entirety:

This is an excellent example of the type of grammatical error that Carson points out in his Exegetial Fallacies book (which I am currently reading for class right now).

Uh-huh. The strong and very scary "Don Carson argument." He doesn't produce a parallel for the so-called "exegetical fallacy," but he invokes the name of Don Carson. That's all he needed to do. Same guy who made the first comment, came back with this:

How can you argue for a position with a known bogus argument and expect it to convince people? At best that’s dishonest.

There haven't been people, again, until just recently that didn't see preservation in gegraptai. No one argued against that. Did they see more than preservation? Have they seen authority, for instance? Sure. Did they understand "it is written" to be a "introduction formula"? Yes. But it is written in the Greek in the perfect tense. It's certainly not a "known bogus argument." The argument against it is what appears to be bogus to me. I'm not ready to call people liars, like the other side so easily is wont to do, however. I think labeling it dishonest shows the desperation on the other side.

If the results of the perfect extend only to the present, there is still a strong argument for preservation here. The New Testament authors were guaranteeing that the results of the original writing of their referred texts were still in existence 400 to 3000 years after their completion. The writers accepted Scriptural preservation from the past to the present time of the writing. It is reasonable to assume that if preservation was active from the past into the present that there was also ample reason to suppose that it would continue into the future.

This perfect passive argument is not a centerpiece of a defense of perfect preservation. One person characterized it that way in a recent discussion. I think that he knows that perfect passive of grapho does not buttress the perfect preservation position. However, it supplements it. It's worth mentioning and bringing to attention. It is another argument. In many ways, it is an argument that would not itself be very strong if it weren't for statements already made about perfect preservation in Scripture. However, the 67 New Testament usages of gegraptai testify to God' s perfect preservation of His Words.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Aaron on TSKT, part four

It's now a month or two ago that Aaron Blumer, the owner of the blog-forum, SharperIron, wrote the fourth, and, it seems, final installment of a series in which he criticizes the content of the book, Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT). I'm going to evaluate that fourth post paragraph by paragraph and in certain cases, line by line (link to the introduction to this post).

Aaron starts by saying that biblical doctrine is derived from Scripture. Exactly. We wish that would be the basis for Aaron's position, instead of his "dispersed text" view that says that we apparently have the words dispersed among all the available manuscripts. We don't know what they are or even where they are. But, he would insist, we have some basis to know that we have enough of the Bible to obey God. This would mean that he is also saying that the very words are not what God sees is important to mankind's receiving of His message.

As he continues in his introduction, you do want to pay attention to a certain feature of Aaron's presentation. He writes in the second paragraph that "God assures us that His Word will endure forever and will not pass away." Catch the singular "Word." Not the plural "Words." If you say that God assures that He will preserve His "Word" for us on earth, then you can still not have all of the very Words and not know where they are all at, and yet still have His "Word." Also notice that he writes, "will not pass away," taking language from Matthew 24:35 where Jesus promises that His "words shall not pass away," not His "Word," singular. So Aaron says that the important thing is to get your position from the Bible and then he changes "Words" to "Word," knowing the difference that makes to the meaning of the verse. He does this a few other times in his article. It isn't thinking about this scripturally.

In his next sentence, Aaron writes: "He assures us that believers will have sufficient access to His Word until all is fulfilled." I haven't read any doctrine of accessibility that Aaron has agreed upon in this series. We have taught that point from Scripture and he has denied. Now he doesn't say that He thinks that we have access to all the Words, but He does believe in access. Is that in the Bible? And if so, why is it that we have sufficient access to a percentage of the Words and not all of them? If there is access, then the access should reflect what the Bible says will be the access, since that's where we get our doctrine. Of course, access passages say that we have access to all the Words.

Next he gives three bullet points that he says "some insist" must be included to be a "true doctrine of preservation." The first is the preservation of "every word in its original form." Isn't that what preservation is? If you had 100 marbles and I said I preserved them for you and then handed you 93 of them, you woudn't think that I preserved them.

His next point is "continual access by many believers." That is not exactly our position. We believe there is access to every generation of believers. And isn't this the point of preservation, so that we would, you know, have the words. Let's go back to the marbles. Let's say that you gave me the 100 marbles, and I said, I've preserved them for you. And then I said, but I don't know where they are at; I only know that they are around somewhere. Anyone with even half a brain would know that is the equivalent of them being lost. You get the point.

His third bullet point says "Certain identifiability in the form of a perfect text." The third point is where the greatest rub is for the so-called "dispersed preservation" people. They don't believe we have one "text" with all the Words in it; well, because God never said what textual edition He would preserve. There we go. Aaron writes about this in the second half of the introduction. And yet that is a straw man because Scripture promises the preservation of every Word, not the preservation of one magical copy that would move its way down through history.

In the last little section of his introduction, he writes: "That every single word is preserved is not in dispute." Um. Wrong. That is very much in dispute. Does Aaron believe that we have the original words of 1 Samuel 13:1 in any Hebrew manuscript? Most of the authors of God's Word in Our Hands, a book that proposes the same view as Aaron, don't believe there is an existent text with the original Words of 1 Samuel 13:1 in it. That sounds like a dispute.

A Clear View of the Central Question

Aaron says the quest for the biblical position relates to this question: "Do we have biblical statements that say, or clearly imply, that believers will have access to every word of Scripture in the form of a text they know is flawless?" There are minefields here. First, Scripture doesn't teach the preservation of a form of a text, but the preservation of every Word. Second, Scripture doesn't say that believers will "know" what those Words are. However, I believe that, based on the teaching of Scripture, from both its direct statements and implications, believers will know what every Word is, so that they will be able to have that flawless form of the text. These are important little details here.

In the second paragraph of this section, Aaron mentions the distortion and sabotage of the Words of Scripture. We have a section on that in TSKT. One of the points of that was to show from Scripture that God Himself said that men were already corrupting the Word of God, so that we would understand that the Bible was already being altered in the first century. The main reason for including that in TSKT was to show from Scripture why "earliest manuscripts are the best manuscripts" can't be said to be true. Later under the heading of "Indirect biblical arguments," Aaron talks about this again, where he again misses the point, which was plain.

A Final Look at Thou Shalt Keep Them

In this little section Aaron makes this statement: "I focused on [TSKT] as an example of one of the better efforts to establish PTP biblically as the correct doctrine of preservation." Wrong. TSKT wasn't making an effort to establish PTP biblically. He frames TSKT wrongfully here, and this does expose Aaron. We studied the Bible on the doctrine of preservation. What we wrote in TSKT is a record of part of our findings. In light of that, I considered this question, "What and when have books been written that would established the ‘dispersed text' as a Biblical position?" That is, "What works done about preservation of Scripture would show that the Bible teaches this ‘dispersed view' of preservation?" I'm not going to be able to find that book to read. There is none. I don't think anyone has written that book because that view isn't found in the Bible.

"It Is Written"

Aaron wrote about Dave Sutton's chapter on gegraptai, the perfect passive, third person, singular, of grapho. Pastor Sutton has already answered Aaron's criticism, but I want to add a little more. A lot of biblical teaching would be voided if someone took the same approach to Scripture as seen in Aaron's criticism. He says that the perfect tense does not guarantee future preservation, only present preservation. Of course, the perfect looks at the results of some past action from the point of view of the reader. With a perfect verb the reader knows that the results of some action in the past are ongoing. With the perfect, there is no assumption that those results are going to stop. The product of the writing of those Old Testament texts completed in the past were still existent at the time that Christ referenced them fifteen hundred years later. Does that teach preservation? Of course it does. But Aaron sees in the perfect tense that there is no guarantee for the future. But why would one think that, if it is God that has preserved it up to that point? That's not the purpose of the perfect tense, that is, to hold off on guaranteeing anything in the future. If that were the case, many eternal security passages would be dealt a blow that they shouldn't. Why? Because the reader shouldn't think that his salvation is secure anytime past that present moment, at least according to Aaron's way of thinking on the perfect tense.

To cover his bases, Aaron then says that even if the perfect was making some guarantee for the future, it would only be ensuring the reader of the preservation of just the Words to which Jesus referred and no more. That seems to be a very cynical view. It is akin to saying that only the Apostle Paul could have blood on his hands for not preaching the whole counsel of God's Word. After all, he didn't say that everyone would have that kind of responsibility, just himself. This is not the right approach to Scripture. We should assume from the use gegraptai that there is a teaching there about the preservation of all of God's inspired Words. Aaron seems to me to be making the Word of God of no effect through some tradition.

"The word is very nigh unto thee"

Aaron makes his disputation here: "The author illustrates a widespread error in TSKT's argument—the leap from "words" to "every one of the words." . . . . However the passage does not say that every jot and tittle had to be in their "mouths" before they could obey." I don't think that Aaron read that chapter carefully enough. Deuteronomy 30:11 says that "this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee." In the previous verse, we get the commandment: "to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law." So especially with this being repeated in Romans 10, the implication is that all the "written" commandments and statutes would be available. None of that is mentioned by Aaron. Instead he chooses to present the strawman to his readers.

"Mindful of the words...Remember the words"

Aaron says that TSKT does not make a strong case for accessibility from 2 Peter 3:2 and Jude 17. He says that the "chapter fails to make a strong case but claims to have done so anyway." Here's the essence of the chapter. You can't be mindful of or remember Words that you don't have. So if Peter and Jude are calling on their readers to remember the Words of all the prophets and the apostles, which would represent the Words of all of the Bible, it is implied that they would have those Words available. Aaron doesn't think that's a strong case. So Aaron would be saying that when Peter and Jude said "remember the Words of the prophets and the apostles," that meant "some of the Words," not all of them. Aaron seems not to want Scripture to be saying what it is actually saying.

Indirect biblical arguments

TSKT asserts that doctrines are changed, altered, or lost in the critical text. One of the critical text assertions is that no doctrine is altered by the differences between the critical text and the textus receptus. Aaron contends that doctrines are only changed in individual texts (which doesn't seem to matter so much to him—he doesn't comment on that at all), that is, only if those passages stand alone, not, however, in the whole of Scripture. And he says that he just randomly picks out 1 Peter 2:2 as an example. Well, to make his point, he really can't take out just one of the passages as an example. He would have to show how that this does not ever occur.

One of the passages referenced in TSKT is Matthew 18:15-17. In v. 15, the King James Version (from the TR) says, "if thy brother shall trespass against thee." The New American Standard Version (from the critical text) says, "if thy brother sins." The critical text, and therefore the modern versions, leaves out "against thee." That, my friends, changes the doctrine there. And this is the only place in the Bible where this particular teaching is found. Aaron should have been a little less random in his choices. He says that "every textual difference in these chapters is similarly non-decisive doctrinally." Wrong.

Other arguments

Aaron deals with the canonicity argument of chapter 19 by writing, "The books of the Bible are canonical because God inspired them." I defy Aaron to show me a verse from Scripture, since that is where we get our doctrine, that says that God inspired "Books." He says Books are canonical because they are inspired. What does that say about the canonicity of "every writing," which the Bible actually says God inspired? Aaron denies the latter, which is in Scripture, for the former, which isn't.

If you remember Aaron's original question, he concentrates on whether believers will "know" what is the flawless form of text of Scripture. TSKT spends several chapters showing what Scripture says about how God's Words would be preserved. Aaron doesn't even mention that. The canonicity argument explains how Israel and the church would "know" what the Words were. How? God would guide them. The Holy Spirit would guide the church to the Words. He wrote them, so He can also guide the church to those Words. He never refutes that particular point, when that is the historic position of the church on preservation.

The Holy Spirit would enable the church to know what the Words were. Aaron says this rests on one's interpretation of history. But how is this any different than canonicity? How can we "know" what the "Books" of Scripture are? Is that too just an interpretation of history? Aaron is simply choosing what he will call "interpretation of history" and what he won't.

Speaking of the Books of Scripture, Aaron writes in this section: "His people were able to exercise discernment and recognize their inspired quality." This should be a bit of an "aha" moment for us. In the second paragraph after his introduction, Aaron writes that the question is not, "Is God able to overcome human nature so that those He chooses perfectly preserve the text?" Just replace the word "text" with the word "Books." This is where we're at in this whole issue. Aaron "knows" what the Books are. God's people were "able" to recognize the Books of Scripture. Why? Well, that was, it seems, a comprehensible use of God's power over individuals who were crippled by sin. According to Aaron, the church is too sinful for God to enable to know what the Words are but not sinful enough to know what the Books are. Why? Because God inspired the Books. Do you get it? If you don't, I understand. Aaron says that it is not a matter of what God was able to do. But, yes, it is that matter for Aaron. He isn't taking His preservation of Books view from a verse. He believes it is what God is able to do. God could overcome men's sinful natures to perfectly preserve Books only. That is something God could do. However, we wouldn't want to strain God with the task of perfectly preserving Words, even though those are what God did say He inspired.

The preceding paragraph exposes Aaron, as well as others like Him. I've found that the "verse" that guides the advocates for this "dispersed view" of preservation is the one found in One Bible Only? by Kevin Bauder. He wrote: "No two manuscripts contain exactly the same Words." That statement is not actually true. It has been proven to be false. But even if it were true, which they believe it to be, that's the "verse" that is the basis for the critical text, eclectic text, or dispersed text view. It's not in the Bible. It's not actually a verse, but it may as well be to the critical text proponents. Reason presides over this choice, not faith. They make the choice that they can comprehend. And, of course, it makes the scientists of textual criticism the authority over the Words of God with their denial of theological presuppositions. I do believe it's like the choice that Jehovah's Witnesses make about the deity of Christ. They make the comprehensible choice, the one that makes the most sense to their own reasoning, disregarding the statements of Scripture.

To end his criticism of TSKT, Aaron chronicles the "pseudo-arguments" of TSKT. Of course, these are not even arguments, but it makes for clever rhetoric by Aaron. He also says that we participate in a little "mind-reading" in judging the opponents of the doctrine of perfect preservation. That's to be expected on his part. But since we don't have a theology of "dispersed preservation" to read anywhere (because there couldn't be one), we are left with the only possible explanations for a non-biblical or unbiblical point of view. If it's not in the Bible, where besides man's reasoning could a view come from? This doesn't take mind reading, but simple logic.

Aaron ends his article with this: "God has preserved His Word in the manner in which He chose and in a form that is sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness." Perhaps nothing could be more ambiguous as that—no explanation of what God chose or the form that was sufficient. We are to assume that sufficient form was an imperfect form. That's where Aaron is leaving us. He doesn't say that, because He can't show us a verse that teaches it. Whatever the form is, and Aaron doesn't know, it will be enough for Scripture to be sufficient. Imperfection will be fine with God. That could be the title of Aaron's piece: Imperfection will be fine with God. We will be sufficiently perfected by means of imperfection, according to Aaron and those like him. I reject that position. And I hope you do too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Does Levi's Feast for Jesus Apply to Evangelistic Methodology?

Luke 5:27-32 records the account of Jesus' eating with sinners:

27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. 30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Verse 32 is one of the most pivotal, defining statements that Jesus ever made. He said it in response to criticism His disciples received from the scribes and Pharisees for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. The circumstance that led to this attack was a great feast that Levi (Matthew), a new believer, had made in honor of his new-found Savior, Jesus. Matthew's only acquaintances at that point, fellow publicans or tax collectors, came to the great feast for Jesus too.

Tax collectors were hated by everyone at that time. No other rabbi except for Jesus would have offered them his presence. They were excluded from society, even as seen in the reaction of the scribes and Pharisees in this event. They were in need of forgiveness and perhaps also saw their need for it, unlike the religious leaders who criticized them.

Can we conclude that the great feast of Matthew was actually an evangelistic technique or strategy? Can we conclude from this example that a legitimate scriptural practice would be for believers to determine the physical attractions of an unsaved society and attempt to draw people from the world to a gathering by luring them by one or more of those attractions?

The verses say nothing about the great feast being a strategy. The verses say nothing about a great feast being a means of attracting a crowd. The great feast is almost incidental to the story. We don't know that Matthew's fellow tax collectors wouldn't have come if he hadn't been throwing a banquet on behalf of Jesus. I think we can assume that his fellow tax collectors were invited. We know the feast was made for Jesus. That's what v. 29 says. It wasn't made for the publicans.

We know from v. 32 that Jesus called sinners to repentance. Matthew made a banquet in His honor and He used the occasion to preach to sinners. Jesus used every occasion to preach to sinners. He was always preaching to sinners. Because He preached to sinners in every occasion, doesn't mean that each of those events were concocted for evangelistic opportunities. The banquet wasn't a device for evangelism. It was a way to honor Jesus. Matthew had no one else to invite to his banquet meant to honor Jesus. No one else was interested in being a friend of a tax collector except for other tax collectors, Jesus' disciples, and Jesus. Other tax collectors were the only ones that Matthew could call upon to join him in honoring Jesus. Jesus and His disciples were rare non-tax-collectors who would meet and eat with other tax collectors.

Tax collectors knew they were sinners. They couldn't find a solution for sin through Judaism. They weren't welcome. They could, however, find relief from Jesus. Matthew now knew that very well. That spiritual relief, the forgiveness for sin and guilt, would interest them. It had interested Matthew enough.

Why make the banquet, the feast, the thing of interest here for these tax collectors? I think this is so much like our modernistic society or culture, that is, to see the great feast as the draw instead of Jesus as the draw. We would just assume that they were there because of the free food and revelries available. The text says nothing of that. Nothing. We have no indication that this was the offer and yet now men will use this as a proof text for using even crass promotions for vulgar interests. Why not assume that they were there to meet Jesus? Jesus was a great enough figure, and a sympathetic and accepting enough Person, enough that their acquaintance, Matthew, would be willing to make Him a great feast. Food was not the attraction. It was incidental. Jesus was the attraction. Why not the following thoughts? "Let's go meet this man. He must be extraordinary. And this is a rare thing that a well-known rabbi would acquiesce to meeting with us."

This passage should not be used to defend certain promotion and marketing for purposes of evangelism. Recently here at What Is Truth we had discussed this in the comment section of a short post asking questions about a particular Fun Fair promotion being used by a church. Someone was comparing these two situations. A Fun Fair flyer designed in carnival-like color and style, emboldened with the capital ABSOLUTELY FREE, and offering sno-cones, carnival games, hot dogs, and tractor rides, was sent to thousands in the community to bring unbelievers to the grounds where the church meets. This Luke passage was referenced to justify that strategy, as if there was a true parallel between the Fun Fair and what Matthew did. At best, the example of Matthew with the feast is to do something great to honor Jesus. It, of course, should be something that would honor Him. Sno cones and carnival games are not in that nature. We might like those kind of things, but our thoughts should be something that He really wants. For the time being, that won't be a banquet. We can know what will honor Him by looking at His Word.

There is no accident that unsaved people would want to attend a "carnival," with special attention to the "carn" in "carnival." The carnival attracts the flesh. It isn't a spiritual attraction. For Levi's gathering, Jesus was the attraction. The Fun Fair, and fun, is a physical attraction. Jesus is a spiritual attraction. Using fun and carnival entertainment as a church attraction associates the church with these. I'm not saying the world won't like that. The world will. And we know they will. That's why we do it. However, does God want to be associated with that? No.

God didn't choose things impressive to the world to save the world. He chose the base things, the weak things, the foolish things. He chose preaching. He didn't choose preaching plus a carnival. The carnival makes sense to the world. With the carnival, perhaps the flesh can now glory in God's presence. God doesn't want the flesh to glory. If any man glory, let him glory in the Lord. Methodology matters. The carnival takes glory from the Lord. People will mistake success in evangelism for the carnival. We see many modern examples of this. Men are looking for the latest new idea that will bring success in church growth. How we do it matters, however, because it affects the glory of God. It does.

In the end, the world won't know why men were attracted to Jesus or His cross. To them it's foolishness. This is how God gets glory---the incomprehensibility of the simplicity of the method. You have to stand back and say, God must have done this. It really must have been God. Men don't like preaching, so how did preaching attract them? Because God was at work. It was a miracle. And God gets the credit for that.

With the Fun Fair, we get the credit. I was reading some of the comments under the Fun Fair. Here was one: "What a wonderful turnout, Chris! God’s hand is moving in this. I think it is *no doubt* the sincerity of you and your church folks that has drawn people to this event." I wouldn't think that. I would think it was because of the flyer and the offer of free games and rides and food. That's what was used to get them to come and that's why they came. That isn't God's hand moving. You see that even spiritual discernment is affected by using these methodologies. People say that it was God Who was moving when it was actually the promotion that moved. Someone may counter, "I think it was the people, their testimony." I answer, maybe, but we don't really know now, do we? Do you see what happens?

The one commenter and the pastor involved talked about the sincerity and graciousness of the church people. It takes zero faith to hand out a flyer offering free food, rides, and games. That is not the work of the Lord. And yet people in fundamentalist and evangelical churches today think it is. The pastors have told them it is. They have done God's work, they think, when they have bribed people to come to the church grounds. The pastor of this church commented that they were able to gain a "positive reputation" in their community. The end justifies the means. The community is thinking positive about the church because the church has given them the kind of church the community would like them to be. That's not really positive. It's a fake positive.

Another point made was that the gospel was preached on the other side of the flyer. I'm not unhappy about a gospel presentation on the back. Anybody who would say that is just attempting to distract from the issue. That's not the point, is it? The point is that the gospel is stuck on a sheet of paper that looks like a carnival and is offering a carnival. I don't think evangelicals and fundamentalists even notice this any more. And the gospel that was presented, I noticed, didn't mention "Hell." I realize that Jesus didn't always use the word "Hell," but there was plenty of room for it on the flyer. Most of the gospel doesn't fit with that medium of presentation. I would contend that absolutely changes the nature of the message. The gospel has nothing to do with "fun." Jesus said that if you come to Me, you deny your self. Self-denial really does get lost in a carnival-like presentation. How we do it, again, does matter.

The whole thing brought back to memory a situation in which our church was out going door to door evangelizing and an area Hyles' church came to the same door at the same time. The Hyles representative was dressed up like a clown. A clown. The clown was going around representing the church and the gospel. Would you say there was no problem as long as the clown was preaching the gospel? Just asking. I don't think so, but I see these two things as the same.

I think it is even worse when a passage is taken hostage for a purpose it wasn't intended. This passage gives us a great truth from the lips of Jesus. He came to call sinners unto repentance. Let's not get our eyes off of that truth. That's the message here. So let's everywhere call sinners to repentance.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Perfect Tense Preservation

by David Sutton

June 16, 2010 Aaron Blumer completed a four-part series on perfect-text preservation. He stated that the Bible teaches preservation but not in a word-perfect form and not to be found in an identifiable text. His final installment included critiques from several chapters from Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT), including two chapters that I wrote. As a guest blogger on “What Is Truth,” I want to deal with two of Mr. Blumer’s arguments against “It Is Written.”

The chapter “It Is Written” dealt with the use of the perfect passive verb gegraptai (“it is written”) as an argument in proving perfect preservation. Just as a reminder, the perfect tense in the Greek means that an action took place in the past with the results ongoing. For instance, when Jesus said in John 19 “It is finished,” He used the perfect tense, signifying that the work He completed on the cross for man’s salvation and God’s satisfaction was now complete, and His work continues to suffice God for the redemption of man’s soul for all eternity.

Probably the most outstanding gegraptai uses occur in the Matthew 4 and Luke 4 where Jesus uses this phrase when quoting the OT to refute Satan’s temptations. In TSKT, I made the point that what Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy was written down by Moses and continued written down some 1400 years later when Jesus referred to those passages. Thus, if Jesus claimed those words were still written down in His day, then we should understand that we still have them written down in our day.

Blumer says we cannot make this inference because the perfect tense does not say what will take place in the future.

The purpose of this post is to show not only that future inference of “it is written” is valid grammatically but also that it is supported biblically.

First, if we say technically that the perfect tense only reaches to the present, then when the future becomes the present, the results also apply. So by implication, the ramifications of the perfect tense can extend into the future. For example, in Ephesians 2:8 Paul uses the perfect tense with the words “are saved.” (Literally, “For by grace are ye having been saved through faith.”) We were saved in the past and the results of that salvation continue to the present. So what about tomorrow? Will the believer be saved then? Yes. When tomorrow comes, the believer can say that he is still in a state of having been saved. The grammar of the perfect tense logically can imply ramifications into the future. This being the case, the perfect tense can imply that preservation extends into the future.

Second, Scripture supports inferring that the perfect tense of gegraptai supports the promise of perfect preservation. Scriptural implications are only valid if they are supported by Scripture. Let’s go back to the Ephesians 2:8 argument. Does the Bible teach future salvation to those who believed in the past? Most certainly, in many places (cf. John 3:16; 6:40; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:14, et. al.). So, with salvation Biblical teaches supports the grammatical implication. The Bible also teaches that the words of Scripture will continue both in heaven and in earth (Psalm 12:6-7; 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35; I Peter 1:24). Therefore, the grammatical inference from the perfect tense of gegraptai is supported by the clear biblical statements of preservation.

A second argument Blumer makes against the chapter is that quoting a few passages from the OT does not indicate that the entire OT is preserved. The Bible often uses the method of allowing the smaller part to refer to the whole. For instance, we find that three times God warns us not to tamper with the words that were written in Scripture (Deut. 12:32; Pro. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). This does not mean that only three books of the Bible were off limits. The parts apply to the whole. Furthermore, Peter summed up that the whole of Scripture is preserved:

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:23, 25).

A blessing of studying any doctrine of the Bible is that one finds it thoroughly consistent with the rest of Scripture. Continued biblical discussion on the topic of preservation serves to strengthen one’s belief on the issue. The old Snicker’s commercial said “every way you slice it, it comes out peanuts.” From every angle one slices the preservation argument, it comes out perfect preservation.

This Is Not Jack Hyles

Are we to think this is "gospel centered" and "God focused?" Is this bait and switch here? Is this just something done for the community, a gift to the community? Is this a legitimate form of "evangelistic outreach?" People in the world aren't going to be attracted by God and the Bible. They "need" something carnal to get their attention.

What do you think?

Do we have anything in scripture that teaches this kind of method? Does anything in the Bible say it's wrong?

Does 1 Corinthians 1-2 apply here?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Have Pastors Been Lying about the Bible's Application to Cultural Issues? That's What Tim Jordan Says

Recently Pastor Tim Jordan among others was invited as a main speaker for the national conference of the General Association of Regular Baptists (GARBC). This was considered to be a big deal to the GARBC because Jordan isn't GARBC. He's the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Lansdale, PA, where is Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, a well-known independent Baptist graduate school, and a National Leadership Conference, which is attended by leaders especially of a particular variety of independent Baptist churches and organizations. However, John Greening, national representative of the GARBC, said at the meeting: "There are other independent Baptists who share our convictions. I want to make new friends with them. . . . The GARBC is not a closed club. The speakers we have had at our conference last year, this year, and will have next year, are indicative of that."

Before a Wednesday sermon at the conference, Jordan said: "“So, why is it that we weren’t fellowshipping sooner? . . . . So what was the difference?” Let me guess here, or at least offer my opinion. I can't speak for Calvary at Lansdale, but I've observed that institution enough to have a bit of a grasp for why there wasn't a tie with GARBC before. E. Robert Jordan, the founding pastor of Calvary, Tim Jordan's dad, wouldn't have had anything to do with the GARBC? I think that's a pretty educated guess. For a long time, he didn't fellowship with Bob Jones University, not until after the seminary there had been started for a little while. I'm not surprised with Tim Jordan's appearance at the GARBC. It looks like a fit to me. I can't see what would keep one away from the other. And E. Robert died in November 2009.

Later on that day, Jordan spoke in a workshop, where he said this:

“If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists] know you are lying. And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are! . . . . They’re not going to do the ‘emperor’s clothes’ thing anymore, . . . they won’t leave if you don’t lie to them!" (emphasis mine)

There we go. That's as bad a thing that anyone could possibly say. To call these men liars in public. It amazes me that the audience would even go for it, but the fact that they would and then publish that he said it, and revel in it, says something about where this group of men stands. Let's get it straight though. He' saying that the independent Baptist separatists were and are lying when they gave and give biblical reasons for their cultural issues. That's what Tim Jordan says.

The "emperor's clothes" reference is essentially saying that these men are pretending to have biblical reasons, when either really know that they don't have any reasons or they're just crazy. In the end, the emperor, after having found out from a little boy that he wasn't wearing any clothes, proudly acted as though he was wearing them anyway. I think you get the picture. These leaders with the convictions on these cultural issues know they don't have any biblical reasons, but they go on like they do and everyone else is to go along with it, when it's obvious they don't have any. You've got to be a dupe or lemming to go along with it. I've been around enough of the Lansdale crowd to know that they do believe both---that men are liars and/or crazy---take your pick. And yet men go right along in fellowship with Calvary in Lansdale as if nothing is wrong. This doesn't sound quite even like agreeing to disagree, does it?

The implication here is that young people are leaving these churches because their leaders are lying to them. If they stop lying to them, that is, stop telling them the Bible has something to say about these cultural issues, then they won't leave. I can tell you first hand, that young people won't leave because you take stands on cultural issues and give biblical reasons for them. They sometimes will leave because they love the world and want to go live it up, in essence to eat, drink, and be merry. In other words, they choose the pleasures of sin for a season than to suffer derision with the people of God. The world is having its impact on churches like Calvary and Lansdale and the numbers are dwindling. Like many other churches, to combat that, you start dropping those standards on the cultural issues. You do keep the young people, but it doesn't have anything to do with "not lying to them."

The stronger the influence of the world and the tougher it is in this world to live the Christian life, the more we're going to see a division taking place. There is a wider gap and clearer distinctions between a biblical Christian and the world than ever. It is an unbridgeable gap. Since it can't be straddled anymore, the young and immature (restless) just drop out. Or the church can change, start taking on the mores and spirit and look of the world system. Calvary in Lansdale recently dropped their old music pastor for a different brand of "worship." That's part of what goes with the territory. And now Calvary and Jordan has moved that direction enough to reach a good comfort level with the GARBC and the GARBC with Calvary. That's "what's the difference" to refer to Jordan's question. And you will always be able to find your crowd in this world, and the one that's more like the world will be bigger. And when you join it, it might feel like a breath of fresh air. Don't mistake that for the Holy Spirit, just a good feeling that you'll have plenty of companions in the broader road.

There is still some feet dragging among some fundamentalists about this kind of development in fundamentalism. At SharperIron, which helped announce this GARBC event, Aaron Blumer, the owner, tried to put a degree of distance between him and Jordan's comments. Right away, he said:

I also don't think it's possible to be Fundamentalist without reference to culture. That is, the fundamentals have cultural implications. So biblical fund. will always be "cultural" in that sense.

And later:

When Jordan says "cultural fundamentalism" in a negative sense, I do not believe he means "all efforts to apply Scripture to cultural choices." Let's be clear about that. There is absolutely no sphere of life that is exempted from the Lordship of Christ. So looking at some of these events and the "cultural trappings" they accept and trying to apply biblical principles to them is an obligation we all have.

Just want to be clear what our choices are here: it's not like on one hand we have "cultural fundamentalism" and on the other we have "anything goes as long as its 'cultural.'" The former is the error of much of fundamentalism. The latter is the error of most of evangelicalism. By "cultural fundamentalism," Jordan (and several others I've heard use the term) is referring to the practice of taking a particular set of applications (or just opinions, for the many who never bothered to think them through) and making them them (a) equal in status to Holy Writ itself and (b) the defining essence of fundamentalism.

The cure for this is not to look at the evangelical landscape and say "none of this cultural stuff matters"!

But the GARBC representative who authored the report answers these comments later:

About "cultural fundamentalism" as it was described by the speakers at the GARBC conference: I think they used the term in reference to the set of cultural values that grew to "mean" fundamentalism. Drs. Jordan and Davey mentioned things like dress standards, music standards, Bible translations, smoking/drinking/movie attendance/mixed swimming, and even loyalty to particular schools and institutions. I don't think we should interpret their comments as as an invitation to lawless living or an indication that they are soft on the subject of personal holiness. Rather, they seemed to refer to "cultural fundamentalism" as a set of cultural taboos that came to replace an authentic definition of historic fundamentalism.

Again, to be clear, Tim Jordan, leader in independent Baptist fundamentalism says that the men were lying who used the Bible to defend convictions related to the above list. Calvary in Lansdale organized mixed swimming, swim park activities, where the girls showed full thigh in their skin tight outfits in the pool with the guys. When I was considering going to Calvary Lansdale in the mid 80s, I saw this firsthand. This proximity of the immodestly dressed was accompanied by quite a bit of frolicking in the water between sexes as well. Certain impediments or barriers seemed to break down with the setting and context. It sort of gives new definition to the emperor with no clothes.

I'm not going to try to prove here and now that Jordan is wrong. He is. You can deal with cultural issues from the Bible. Everyone draws lines. So does Jordan. He's just creating some space for his laxity and license. Men who do take positions on cultural issues, the so-called "cultural fundamentalists," do defend their positions from the Bible. And they're not lying.