A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

FeaturedA Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part Two)

In a previous article, a common criticism raised from Covenant theologians brought forth from promoters of Dispensational thought is Covenant theology promotes what some would call “replacement theology.” An article, promoting Covenant theology, brought forth a counterargument that the term “replacement theology” is alien to Covenant theology arguing that Dispensationalism promotes an Israel-centered grid when reading the Scriptures. However, it was noted that the term “replacement theology” is used intentionally, and was shown that there were theologians throughout the centuries that promoted the idea that the church had either superseded or replaced Israel when it came to future promises. It was shown by the biblical text there are exclusive promises that are given to national Israel that have not yet been completed, and if God fails to give these promises to the people whom He had addressed, then God’s glory is nullified.

In this same article, the writer commented that Israel was only an instrument God used to bring about what God prophesied to the serpent in the Garden of Eden

[Dispensationalism] assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. 

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Does Ephesians 2:11-22 prove that Israel was only a “means to an end?” A brief exposition of the Ephesians 2:11-22 will be examined below.

In the broader context of Ephesians chapter two Paul summarizes the Ephesian saint’s life before Christ, and that by God’s mercy they have received forgiveness (vs. 1-6). Paul also told them that in the future they will be displays of God’s grace, and how all of these benefits that were given to them was not based on any merit of their own but was all a work of God (vs. 7-9).  Due to this reality, they were to complete the good works that God had laid out before them to complete (v. 10).  Paul, in the next verse, discusses how the Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) were excluded from the “commonwealth” (this refers back to the back to the theocracy found in with Israel in the Old Testament, as the Law was specifically given to the Israelite people). Paul also wrote they were strangers (lit. “aliens”) to the covenants of promise (these are the promises that are associated with the commonwealth of Israel such as land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom). Paul writes they were without hope and God in the world (as far as these personal promises to national Israel are concerned).

Paul then explained they had been brought (or “made near”) by the blood of Christ and continued the metaphor of this spiritual reality by bringing up the dividing wall that surrounded the Temple of God. The dividing wall was a physical structure that was around the temple of God and separated Jew and Gentile. The non-Jew could not cross past this wall as it resulted in death to the gentile who crossed over it. Paul wrote due to the work of Christ these two groups that were once separated would be unified. Paul then underscored this truth by quoting from the Old Testament and gave the result of the work of Christ for the non-Jew: They are strangers and aliens no longer, but fellow citizens with the saints in God’s personal household. Paul also spoke of the foundation of God’s household which was built on the apostles and those prophets that spoke in the early church, and that the Gentiles are being built up in the Lord.

There are several qualities to note about this epistle. Paul could have made it very clear that the church is spiritual Israel or the new Israel as some past theologians have written. However, Paul in verse 14 used the word εἷς (“one”). Paul then further specifies what this number signifies in verse 15 by using the Greek phrase εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον (“into one new man”). If Paul wanted to express the church were one new nation he would have written εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἔθνος (“into one new nation”) or εἰς ἕνα καινὸν Ἰσραὴλ (“into one new Israel”). In addition, Paul uses other terms in this particular passage to describe the unification of Jew and Gentile such as οἰκεῖος (“household”), οἰκοδομή (“building”), and naos (“temple”). In other epistles, he uses the word σῶμα (“body”) to describe the spiritual unity of the church (c.f., 1 Cor. chap 12). However, Paul when talking to the Gentiles in explaining the reality of the Church never uses the word nation, or Israel, to describe such people.

Paul outlined the blessings that the Gentiles have been given by God in chapter one of Ephesians. The Gentiles had been made holy and blameless before God (v. 4), they had been predestined to adoption to be sons and daughters of God the Father (v. 5, 11). Redemption through the blood of Christ to be reconciled to the Father (vs. 7-8). He had given them “the mystery of His will” through the apostles (v. 9). There is an inheritance that the Gentile saint would receive (v. 11), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing the inheritance we will receive (i.e., their glorification) (v. 14). These details outlined in chapter one are important because in none of these blessings that Paul mentioned in chapter one are the physical promises Israel is to receive (i.e, land, seed, blessing, king, and kingdom).

Furthermore, Paul used the temple as a metaphor to describe the reality of the spiritual unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ Jesus. However, this does not mean that Paul is making an argument national Israel is a means to an end. From the context, observing the words in their plain sense Paul is arguing that the ministry of Christ brings these two different people groups together and unifies them. The dividing wall, as Paul wrote metaphorically has been destroyed between the two groups, but to claim this passage is an argument that the promises directly given to national Israel are now obsolete when the words Paul uses in the text do not express this idea, is overstepping the bounds of the author’s intent.

The author in the article above seemed to imply that dispensational thinkers observe Israel as an end in itself. This writer would have to respectfully disagree with his analysis of dispensationalism. The end of all things according to the dispensationalist is the glory of God, not the nation of Israel. As stated previously the reason Israel figures prominently is that there are still promises that are given to Israel personally by God that He must fulfill. If God does not give these promises to the people He said He would give them to this will, in effect, minimize the glory of God.

Israel and the church are not juxtaposed beside each other.  As Scripture has revealed there are physical blessings that are personally given to Israel, and they are spiritual blessings that are given to the church. Ephesians 2:11-22 show that the Gentiles are unified with Jews (which was not seen in the economy of the Law). The Gentiles are fellow sharers of the spiritual blessings outlined in chapter one of Ephesians, and this is all a working of God’s multifaceted plan, for His own glory. Amen.

In Covenant theology, it is expressed that the body of Christ was seen through Israel, which served as a type and shadow that the church has always existed. In the next article, this author will contend that is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

Blog Rewind: Christianity: The Only True Feminism

Blog Rewind: Christianity: The Only True Feminism

This blog was written on January 27th, 2017. It has been updated from the original blog which you can find here:

There have been recent discussions about the inequality, and oppression, of women in the United States. With the Women’s March that took place in Washington D.C. on January 21, 2017, this topic has been placed in the national spotlight. Among this crowd were a group of women who believe in the struggle against what they call a “Patriarchal” culture in America. Dina Ley, responding to a woman who did not support the Women’s March wrote a piece titled, You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry” After paying respect to the women she believed paved the way for women’s rights in America wrote the following

You can make your own choices, speak and be heard, vote, work, control your body, defend yourself, defend your family, because of the women who marched. You did nothing to earn those rights. You were born into those rights. You did nothing, but you reap the benefits of women, strong women, women who fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy and fought for you. And you sit on your pedestal, a pedestal you are fortunate enough to have, and type. A keyboard warrior. A fighter for complacency. An acceptor of what you were given. A denier of facts. Wrapped up in your delusion of equality.

After this comment, Dina Ley made another statement concerning inequality and women who live in America

You are not equal. Even if you feel like you are. You still make less than a man for doing the same work. You make less as a CEO, as an athlete, as an actress, as a doctor. You make less in government, in the tech industry, in healthcare.You still don’t have full rights over your own body. Men are still debating over your uterus. Over your prenatal care. Over your choices.You still have to pay taxes for your basic sanitary needs.

Dina Ley concluded her letter by writing the following comment

Open your eyes. Open them wide. Because I’m here to tell you, along with millions of other women that you are not equal. Our equality is an illusion. A feel-good sleight of hand. A trick of the mind. I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters.

The ideas mentioned by Dina Leygerman, and many others who share her perspective, come from a worldview known as secularism. The word secularism has its origin from a 13th-century Old French word meaning “living in the world, not belonging to a religious order” (etymology.com, 2017). A more current definition is defined below

[Secular humanism] believes that humans are on their own and must depend on their own resources and strength to attain the good life. They do not affirm or deny the existence of God, but most are atheist or agnostics (New Standard Encyclopedia, 2002).

Secularism, in essence, views human history without consideration of God. A person who holds to a secular worldview, at the very least, is indifferent about the existence of God. Consequently, they observe feminism very differently than one who holds to a Biblical worldview. Consider these two types of secular feminism: Liberal Feminism and Radical Feminism. Liberal Feminism is described by Gerald Corey as follows:

Liberal feminist focus on helping individual women overcome the limits and constraints of their socialization patterns. Liberal feminist argue that women deserve equality because they have the same capabilities as men. These feminist tend to believe the differences between women and men will be less problematic as work and social environments become more bias-free (Corey, 2005).

Gerald Corey defines Radical Feminism by the below statement

Radical Feminist focus on the oppression of women that is embedded in the patriarchy and seek to change society through activism…Radical feminists strive to identify and question the many ways in which patriarchy dominates every area including household chores, paid employment, intimate partnerships, violence, and parenting. The major goals are to transform gender relationships, transform societal institutions, and increase women’s sexual and procreative determination (Corey, 2005).

These are the philosophies of those who observe feminism from a secular worldview. There is no God that governs their thoughts, and attitudes. As a result, they believe the problem resides in social structures and cultural attitudes only. They also believe either education, activism, or a complete overthrow of the “patriarchal” system is necessary for true equality. However, a person with a Biblical worldview observes feminism very differently.

First, the Biblical worldview asserts God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and He created male and female in His likeness, and image (Gen. 1:26-27). The very way male and female were formed by God came from the very mind of God. Man and woman, according to a Biblical worldview, are equal, because male and female are both fashioned by the same Creator who is greater than the both of them, and they bear His image and likeness in creation.

Second, Paul gave insight into the equality of man and woman, and how they were to observe one another. In addressing the churches in Corinth, concerning head coverings, Paul wrote the following:

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God (1 Cor. 11:7-12, NASB emphasis mine).

Paul pointed out all things “originate from God” (1 Cor. 11:12). If all things find their origin in God, then this makes all things (that is, male and female according to the context) equal and interdependent on one another. The woman came from man, as we observed in the creation account in Genesis. However, man is conceived in the womb of a woman by conception. A person who has a Biblical worldview understands men and women are both important, and necessary to bring about physical life.

Third, women were instrumental in serving the body of Christ in many ways in the early church (and even now). One example is Phoebe, who was a fellow servant of the Lord, was a help to many of the saints in the region of Corinth, and even Paul himself (Rom. 16:1-2). A second example was Priscilla, the wife of Aquila, who took Apollos aside with her husband and explained the Scriptures with greater accuracy to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Priscilla, along with her husband, even risked their own lives for Paul’s sake (Rom. 16:3-4). In addition, godly women were to serve as an example to younger women with the way they lived their life (Tit. 2:4-5).

Fourth, the sacred Scriptures instruct men to love their wives. This is highlighted with how Christ loved the church, which is seen by Christ sacrificing Himself for His church (Eph. 5:23-25; Col. 3:19). Peter cautions that husbands who do not love their wives, and do not live with them in an understanding, and honoring way, will hinder their own prayers (1 Pet. 3:7).

Fifth, in terms of female widows, the body of Christ is to be charitable to older widows who are faithful to Christ, and serve His saints (Jas. 1:27; 1 Tim. 5:9-10). A person with a Biblical worldview observes younger, and older women in high regard understand women are made in the image of God, are unique in their function and position in the world, and godly examples for other female saints.

Sixth, a secular feminist, and a Biblical feminist would agree there are injustices against women in the world. However, the source of injustice, in contrast to a secular feminist worldview, sees a world that has been cursed, and corrupted, not by a “patriarchal” society, but by sin (Gen. 3:15-19). The reason there are injustices against women is that all mankind, male and female, is born dead in trespasses and sins (Ps. 51:5; Eph. 2:1-2).

The hostility against an almighty, omniscient, Creator, makes us hostile to the people God has fashioned. If you ponder it, all men and women are all “equal opportunity offenders,” who have offended God, have been hostile to mankind, and have all earned His wrath equally. However, Christ has paid the cost, has forgiven men and women for their sins, and rescued them from His wrath (Jn. 3:16). In short, it is the regeneration by the Holy Spirit, through the gospel of Christ Jesus and His word, and love for one’s neighbor that promotes true equality between the sexes.

Lastly, Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, has also unified the saints. It is the Holy Spirit that has joined men and women, of all cultures and ethnicities into the body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). Paul wrote there was neither Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, or female, and that all who belong to God are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Paul also wrote believers are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). This has everything to do with the unity in the Holy Spirit believers have in Christ, who is the Lord and Master. The distinctions of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, cultural position, or even male and female orientation, are removed when considering the unity Christians have before God, and the glorification that is soon to be revealed in the saints at His Great appearing.

The beliefs espoused in Biblical Christianity are the only true feminism. The Biblical worldview recognizes the value of women, because women are made in God’s image and likeness, and therefore have intrinsic value. As a result of this reality, the Biblical worldview acknowledges Christians must speak out against injustices and crimes against all women, understanding the world, and that all men and women who live on it are born with a sin nature. Furthermore, the Biblical worldview understands the unity that males and females have in Christ Jesus, recognizing equality does not come from the culture or society, but from God Himself. Subjective equality found in Liberal and Radical feminism, when compared to Biblical feminism, falls short of true equality as seen in the Scriptures. The only reality that brings true liberation and freedom for women (and men) is the gospel of Christ, and to increase in the knowledge of the word of God to observe things from His perspective (Rom.12:1-2). The perspective of feminism, apart from a Biblical worldview, sincere as it can be, may lead to chaos, and hostility between both males and females.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

The Benefit of The “Doubt”

The Benefit of The “Doubt”

The mediums of story and drama throughout the centuries have been used to stimulate thought and generate conversation concerning the metanarratives that are revealed as one observes the performance. from William Shakespeare’s Othello, to Authur Miller’s The Crucible, and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, some of the themes that are seen within these dramas stick with a person, and may cause them to ponder these themes days after they have watched them.

Such is the case with the drama titled Doubt: A Parable written by playwright and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley.  John Patrick Shanley received his break with a play titled Danny and The Deep Blue Sea, which premiered in New York and in London in 1984. After a time he began to try his hand at writing screenplays for motion pictures and in 1987 received an Academy Award for best original screenplay for Moonstruck, which starred Cher in the leading role. In addition, John Patrick Shanley has worked on additional movie projects such as Joe Vs. The Volcano, Alive, and Congo (which was a novel written by acclaimed author Michael Crichton). After working on these projects he turned his attention back to writing plays for the theatre. He wrote several other plays in the late 90s, however, it was in the early to mid-2000s when the play Doubt: A Parable debuted, and ever since then the play has been met with high accolades and praise. Doubt: A Parable went on in 2005 to win a Tony Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and in 2008 was adapted into a motion picture with the same name,  starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis who all were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in this movie.

The story of Doubt: A Parable centers around four main characters: Father Flynn (a Roman Catholic Church priest), Sister Aloysius Beauvier (a nun and strict principal of the Roman Catholic School), Sister James (a nun and a young novice teacher), and Mrs. Miller (who is the mother of another character that is associated with the play by the name Donald Miller, who is never seen in the play). The main premise of the drama is centered on Sister Aloysius Beauvier and how she suspects Father Flynn of molesting Donald Miller, the Roman Catholic’s school first African-American student and investigating, along with Sister James, Father Flynn’s behavior. Throughout the main story, there are several metanarratives that are exposed throughout the play all culminating in the final scene with the confrontation between Sister Aloysius Beauvier and Father Flynn where she attempts to extract the truth. 

John Patrick Shanley, in an interview in 2008, discussing his inspiration for the play said the following:

“[I felt] surrounded by a society that seemed very certain about a lot of things. Everyone had a very entrenched opinion, but there was no real exchange, and if someone were to say, ‘I don’t know,’ it was as if they would be put to death in the media coliseum. There was this mask of certainty in our society that I saw hardening to the point that it was developing a crack–and that crack was doubt. So I decided to write a play that celebrated the fact that you can never know anything for certain.”

Kennedy B (2015). Writer’s Theatre. From the Bronx to Broadway: John Patrick Shanley. Retrieved from https://www.writerstheatre.org/blog/bronx-broadway-john-patrick-shanley/

John Patrick Shanley brings out two important things that are highlighted in his play. First, he brings the audience face to face with issues that make society uncomfortable to discuss openly and honestly: racism, domestic violence, same-sex attraction, sexual and physical abuse are just some of the metanarratives that he covers in his complex work. However, what makes the play even more complicated is every character is working from the idea that they are doing what they do from the very best intentions, taking away the excuse from the audience that the way the characters are acting is just insensitive, or cold and calculated monsters. John Patrick Shanley pulls back the curtain and shows a corner in society that people often overlook, or people use their opinions to justify why it is not their problem, issue to solve or get involved with. Second, in the midst of these situations with these characters, he underscores the “certainty” of people in society, originating from what he calls “very entrenched opinion.”  The “certainty” of individuals comes about by the person’s own limited point of view. The characters in the play, the situations they are involved in, and the surrounding themes in the play invite the audience to “doubt” their own perspective, and more importantly the source of their own perspective. 

There are some similarities and differences between Doubt and the Scriptures. The Scriptures, much like John Patrick Shanley, brings us face to face with the dark side of humanity. The Scripture shows such things as murder (Gen. 4:1-8), rape and incest (2 Sam. 13:1-19), the marginalization of the downtrodden (c.f., Isa. 1:23), and many other atrocities. The Scriptures do not pull any punches concerning the human condition because one of the purposes of Scripture is to reveal how horrible and dark things are in this present world. Scripture, much like John Patrick Shanley’s play, does not give the reader room to turn away, dismiss, or ignore this reality. In one sense, God, through Scripture challenges one to “doubt” their own perception of reality.

Second, the Scriptures, much like John Patrick Shanley’s play, challenges mankind’s “very entrenched opinions” and the origins of these perspectives. It reveals people’s negative prejudices and the man-made traditions that people adhere to for their own safety and security. It reveals the veneer of the lies mankind tells itself and strips them bare of their limited and finite wisdom, and the foundation of this wisdom. Much like Shanley’s play, God through the Scriptures challenges mankind to “doubt” the cause of their own “entrenched opinions.”

However, there is a stark contrast to John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt and the Scriptures. The masterpiece written by Shanley challenges people’s perceptions, established opinions, and pleads with mankind to dialogue with one another concerning these controversial themes. However, God’s word challenges mankind to lay aside their inadequate ideas and perceptions and beckons one to be assured in His perspective (c.f., 2 Tim 3:16-17). While Shanley leaves the audience wondering, questioning, and conversing to seek out their own answers, God, through His word tells the believer to be transformed by being renewed by His answers so they know His desire (Rom. 12:1-2). While John Patrick Shanley leaves one to “doubt” their own limited opinions, and the source of those set opinions on how to address these various controversies, God by His word commands mankind to leave their insufficient opinions, the origins of them, and replace them with His truth, with God as the Source. Furthermore, God desires mankind to follow His word on how one is to address these injustices that are discussed within the play (c.f., Book of Proverbs). In short, God challenges mankind to “doubt” their limited outlook, and be convinced of His outlook, by His word.

For those who hold to a Biblical worldview, there is a silver lining to this play and the themes it contains. Where Doubt invites the viewers to examine and question everything one knows, the Scripture provides the answer to the cause of these controversies outlined in the play (Gen. 3:1-24), and the manner by which the body of Christ addresses these themes among one another, and others around the saints(c.f., Gal. 6:6-9). Doubt grants the believer the opportunity to discuss God’s perspective, and wrestle through these tough issues, and hopefully persuade others to possibly consider and even embrace the perspective of God, and His answers for these problems. This truly is the benefit of the Doubt.

 

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

A Comparison of the Hermeneutics Concerning Covenant Theology & Classical Dispensationalism (Part One)

In greater evangelical Christianity there are two major systems of theology: Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. Although there is a common thread between the systems (i.e., the glory of God), there is a major difference in how the glory of God is ultimately displayed. For the Covenant theological system, the glory of God is primarily redemptive. This redemptive plan according to Covenant theology is observed by God establishing two (or possibly three) covenants with mankind: The covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. In Dispensationalism, there are three qualities that govern the system: the doxological purpose of God (which this author would argue governs the two other  qualities), consistently observing the words of Scripture in their plain and normal sense (i.e., the consistent normal historical-grammatical reading), and the distinction between Israel and the Church (in plan and purpose). From a dispensational view, the glory of God in all of His works is the focus and not only the salvation of mankind. 

One of the common criticism from those who adhere to Covenant theology is dispensational thinkers have an Israel-centered hermeneutic rather than Christocentric hermeneutic, as one such website notes

The very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement.

The Hidelblog.com. Covenant theology is not replacement theology. Retrieved from: https://heidelblog.net/2013/08/covenant-theology-is-not-replacement-theology/

Even though the word “replacement” has not been used in the past, this particular use of the word has not been without reason. There have been theologians throughout history that have stated that Israel as a nation, in comparison with the church, is now irrelevant. Justin Martyr (130-202 A.D.) in Dialogue with Trypho wrote:

Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race.

Justin Marytr. Dialogue with trypho. Retrived from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cxxxv.html.

Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), another early theologian in his work An Answer to The Jews made a similar comment about Israel, using the historical narrative of Jacob and Esau he commented:

Accordingly, since the people or nation of the Jews is anterior in time, and greater through the grace of primary favour in the Law, whereas ours is understood to be less in the age of times, as having in the last era of the world attained the knowledge of divine mercy: beyond doubt, through the edict of the divine utterance, the prior and greater people — that is, the Jewish — must necessarily serve the less; and the less people — that is, the Christian— overcome the greater.

Tertullian. New Advent. An answer to the Jews.  Retreived from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm

Those who subscribe to Covenant theology connect their hermeneutic back to the early church fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.), as one author noted:

In the history of theology, the elements of what we know as covenant theology; the covenant of redemption before time between the persons of the Trinity, the covenant of works with Adam, and the covenant of grace after the fall; have existed since the early church…Indeed, Reformed readers who turn to the early church fathers (c. 100–500 AD) might be surprised to see how frequently they used language and thought patterns that we find very familiar.

Clark., S (2006). The history of covenant theology. Retrieved from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/history-covenant-theology/

However, when a person observes Scripture in its plain meaning there are promises that are explicitly given to national Israel. For example, God promised Abraham’s descendants physical land that stretches from Egypt to the River Euphrates (as far as Egypt to what is now modern day Iraq) (Gen. 15:18). 

future-map5
The future borders of Israel outlined in Gen. 15:18. Retrieved from http://www.ahavat-israel.com/eretz/future.

In addition, God promised David a physical King that would come from his line and rule Israel on his throne to usher in an everlasting righteousness (2 Sam. 7:8-14). Furthermore, the promise of the new covenant is given specifically “to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Ezek. 31:31). The future promises that are given to national Israel are associated with the consistency of creation itself described by the prophet Jeremiah!

Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease. From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord

Jer. 31:35-37 NASB

How would a Covenant theologian explain the land promise found in Genesis 16:18? John Calvin in his works does not even comment on how much land Abraham’s descendants would receive but he comments the covenant in this specific text is essentially a shadow of the sacraments of the church. John Gill, another prominent theologian mentioned in his commentary that the River Euphrates was the boundary line during the rule of King David. However, there has never been a time in history where Abraham, nor Abraham’s descendants have received land by the Nile River in Egypt. The Covenant theologian, based upon a predominant “ecclesiastical” hermeneutic at the most replaces the promises given to Israel to the church, or at the least supersedes the promises of God that are given to Israel to the church.

By contrast, the dispensational view, consistently observing Israel in the plain normal sense, would recognize that these things mentioned above (land, king, and spiritual renewal) are given directly to this nation whom God has promised these things to. If God fails to give these things to those whom He has addressed, or if He exclusively transfers these promises to another group of people in effect this would diminish His very glory.  In short, the method a person uses to read the Bible (i.e., hermeneutic) is how one is going to explain the Scriptures.

The critique that dispensational thought employs an Israelological grid to explain the Scriptures is false. The system of dispensationalism has at its very core a doxological focus. It must be noted that Israel does figure prominently in the Old Testament and even the New Testament Scriptures. However, this is due to the promises God gave to them as a nation, and these promises are directly associated with His glory. 

There is no denying God’s redemptive work for mankind. Both Covenant and Dispensational systems acknowledge this. Both systems also recognize the glory of God as the ultimate end. How God’s glory is understood in relation to human history is determined on the method that is employed by each system. For the Covenant theologian due to the hermeneutic they use they observe the glory of God primarily in the salvific act of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. For the dispensationalist, the glory of God is observed in all His works, and this includes not only the salvation of those who are part of the church but God fulfilling the future promises to the people who will receive them, which is Israel.

Yet there are those who subscribe to Covenant theology that believe dispensationalists juxtapose Israel and the church. In the next article, this author will demonstrate from the Book of Ephesians that this is not the case.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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The Hypocrisy of Evolution and Man-Made Climate Change

The Hypocrisy of Evolution and Man-Made Climate Change

There are many scholars, educators and even theologians that are convinced of the theory that is known as evolution. The theory of evolution is described below

Broadly defined, biological evolution is any heritable change in a population of organisms over time. Changes may be slight or large, but must be passed on to the next generation (or many generations) and must involve populations, not individuals.

Evolution. New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://web.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Evolution

This theory was first proposed by Charles Darwin in his book The Origin of Species (1859) where he outlined several qualities found in evolutionary theory: Animals change over time (a process that Darwin titled “descent with modification”), all creatures in the world find their origin in a common ancestor,  the main process which strong traits from an organism are passed down for adaptation (a process that is known as “natural selection”), and different types of creatures come from the region of their descendants (what is termed as biogeography). The main ingredient of the progression of the species, according to evolutionary theory is large amounts of time, as one researcher commented below

Usually macroevolutionary changes cannot typically be observed directly because of the large time scales generally involved, though many instances of macroevolutionary change have been observed in the laboratory (Rice & Hostert 1993). Instead, studies of macroevolution tend to rely on inferences from fossil evidence, phylogenetic reconstruction, and extrapolation from microevolutionary patterns. Often the focus of macroevolutionary studies is on speciation: the process by which groups of previously-interbreeding organisms become unable (or unwilling) to successfully mate with each other and produce fertile offspring.

Forbes, A (2010). Evolution is change in the inherited Traits of a Population through Successive Generations. Retrieved from http://web.iitd.ac.in/~amittal/SBL101_Evolution.pdf

Due to the large course of time in history proponents of evolution have sought to mark out the amount of time that has passed from the start of the universe to the origin of man. Evolutionist place the beginning of the universe, which they believe started when “The Big Bang” occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. They assert the universe underwent a radical process of extreme heat and gases to become the universe of stars and galaxies we know today. Within our own galaxy is the earth, which is estimated by those who subscribe to evolutionary theory to be 4.6 million years old. The earth, much like the universe, on a much smaller scale, had a very chaotic and hostile beginning. A website details what this early beginning of the earth

In the very beginning of earth’s history, this planet was a giant, red hot, roiling, boiling sea of molten rock – a magma ocean. The heat had been generated by the repeated high speed collisions of much smaller bodies of space rocks that continually clumped together as they collided to form this planet. As the collisions tapered off the earth began to cool, forming a thin crust on its surface. As the cooling continued, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth’s early atmosphere. Clouds formed and storms raged, raining more and more water down on the primitive earth, cooling the surface further until it was flooded with water, forming the seas.

How old is the earth? (2015). Extreme science. Retrieved from http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm

The start of creatures who could walk on two legs (i.e., bipedal) was estimated to be about 4 million years ago, with other biological human advancements and developments evolutionist claim these occurred about 100,000 years ago.

So what does all of this information about evolution have to do with climate change? Climate change is defined as an increase in global temperature, which leads to the rising of sea levels and erratic atmospheric conditions. This is mainly due to the rise of the burning of fossil fuels from production and industry by mankind. It is the case that some who promote evolutionary theory believe that mankind is destroying the earth and point to the phenomenon of climate change as irrefutable evidence of this reality. However, to believe in both one would have to suspend the foundational beliefs in either evolution, or climate change to reconcile both beliefs. 

Take the advancement of fossil fuels as the culprit of climate change. In addition to the fact that fossil fuels are a natural source (hence the word “fossil” in fossil fuels), industry for human beings has been around for only 259 years (the Industrial Revolution began in 1760). Production, in the course of human history from the perspective of evolution, is extremely young, whereas catastrophic events that have happened due to weather and atmospheric conditions on the earth, whether man has been here on earth or not, are extremely old. For one to believe mankind has this much power to destroy the planet one must suspend the belief that the planet has gone through much worse than mankind in its long lifetime. As stated earlier the earth has endured molten rock, sulfur and methane atmosphere, raging storms, and colossal upheavals, meteors and asteroid collisions, magnetic pole reversals, and an extremely long Ice Age (which evolutionist believe happen 2.4 million years ago and lasted over 2.3 million years long!) that produced drastic changes on the planet over time. The point is all of these events according to the evolutionist happened before mankind even appeared on the earth. 

If one truly believes in the evolutionary theory then one also must adopt the belief that climate change has been occurring for billions of years without human intervention. Furthermore, it also underscores that a person must adopt the belief that the earth can adjust its climate over a long period of time, as it has done so in the distant past (if one believes that the origins of complex man were 100,000 years ago). 

Climate change has as one of its solutions for this problem the idea of population control. The fewer people there are on the earth, the more the earth’s resources will last and the earth’s climate will be preserved. However, this is also against the evolutionary theory due to the instruction of natural selection. Climate change assumes human beings will not adapt to their environment, with nature choosing the strongest to survive as a result of adaptation. Therefore, according to the solution to climate change, it is not nature that determines the progression of the creature, but mankind either volunteers or is coerced by external sources other than natural selection, not to populate for the sake of preserving the planet. To summarize, evolution and climate change at their very cores cannot coexist, because to assert climate change is to deny crucial information about the evolutionary theory concerning the creation of the earth and the development of mankind.

The biblical worldview (the worldview to which this author subscribes) concerning the earth and the climate activity within the earth does not teach that climate change is man-made, or the evolutionary theory.  The Scriptures instruct that God created the heavens, the earth in six literal 24 hours days and not over billions of years (Gen. 1:1-31; c.f., Exo. 20:9-11). The Scriptures do not teach that man derived from distant descendants of primates over millions of years, but that mankind was created in the image of God on day six (Gen. 1:26-28) and were personally created by Him (Gen. 2:7, 2:18-21). Furthermore, In terms of the weather and climate as mentioned in a previous article atmospheric patterns found in the earth are cyclical and natural phenomena that occur on the earth. It is the weather, in addition to all creation, that reveals the power and transcendent nature of God (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). 

Evolutionary theory assumes that over a long period of time, through many chaotic processes the earth has become what we know today. By contrast, the beliefs of climate change are in conflict with the fundamental beliefs of the theory of evolution.  If one submits to one of these perspectives, they cannot be beholden to the other. Furthermore, the biblical worldview contends against these two paradigms highlighting that God is the one who has created weather, climate, mankind and all of creation for His glory. 

Let us continue to look to God’s word to inform us of the cycles of the climate and the origins of creation. 

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

For more resources please visit: www.drluthermsith.com

I have a YouTube channel where there is new content being published every day titled Urban Theologian Media! Please go and check out the channel, view some of the shows there, and if you like the videos please subscribe at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTKYllo-vyDe76Mpj4R0TOw

 

 

 

 

 

The Bible and The Implications of Climate Change

The Bible and The Implications of Climate Change

Many scientists, meteorologists, and climate experts are convinced of the catastrophic phenomenon known as climate change. NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) describes climate change in the paragraph below:

Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.

Callery, S. (Ed.). (2019, February 07). What’s the difference between climate change and global warming? – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/12/whats-the-difference-between-climate-change-and-global-warming/.

NASA in their description of climate change makes a distinction from global warming. They describe global warming as the extended warming of the entire planet due to the increase of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which has increased about two degrees Fahrenheit respectively. NASA stated that this slight increase in temperature is due to the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Although global warming is related to climate change it is not exclusively defined as climate change.

Due to this phenomenon of climate change, there are individuals who are concerned that humanity’s future is at stake if this issue is not addressed. A senator from New York had declared if the United States does not address the issue of climate change the world will end in 12 years. In addition, the senator also added that climate change is as serious as World War II.  Jerry Brown, The former governor of California, in an interview with Meet The Press discussing President Donald Trump’s agenda, said the President should make this the forefront of his presidency and said the following comment below:

I would point to the fact that it took Roosevelt many, many years to get America willing to go into World War II and fight the Nazis. Well, we have an enemy, though different, but perhaps, very much devastating in a similar way. And we’ve got to fight climate change. And the president’s got to lead on that.

Kamisar, B. (2018, December 30). Jerry Brown: Climate change challenges are as serious as those faced in World War II. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/jerry-brown-climate-change-challenges-serious-those-faced-world-war-n952446.

There are others who believe the overpopulation of the world, the increasing use of fossil fuels, and the consumption of the earth’s resources is intensifying the problem and that the solution may be to reduce the population at some point in the future. Even some believers, arguing from omission, holding to climate change are convinced that human beings have the capability to destroy the earth as author notes below:

As scientists, we know the importance of evidence; whether revealed through God’s written word or through creation. There is nothing in the Bible that says human-induced climate change isn’t possible. And there is plenty in creation that tells us that it is…there is only really one thing we Christians are called to do: to fearlessly express Christ’s love to others. In the case of climate change, how do we express this love? Through acknowledging the reality of the issue; supporting action to help others who are being harmed now, today, and in the future; and taking our responsibility to care for God’s creation seriously.

Hayhoe, K. (2019, June 19). Why All Christians Should Heed Pope Francis’ Call to “Care for Our Common Home”. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from https://biologos.org/blogs/archive/why-all-christians-should-heed-pope-francis-call-to-care-for-our-common-home.

However, should a believer hold to this stance regarding this climate change and the subsequent consequences of this phenomenon? Does the Bible observe the issue of the climate as a threat to the earth itself due to manufacturing, fossil fuel, and overpopulation? 

The answer is highlighted in the book of Ecclesiastes, whose author was Solomon, the king of Israel, who conducted a social experiment about life under the sun. He concluded in his survey that the purpose of man is to honor God and follow his wisdom concerning life (Ecc. 12:13). Solomon is also credited in Scripture as being the wisest man that has ever lived (1 Kings 3:12-13). This was due to Solomon petitioning God for wisdom to guide the Israelite people, and as a result of this prayer, God granted Solomon’s request (1 Kings 3:6-11). This knowledge is important because Solomon was making observations regarding life and nature from the wisdom God had given Him. In the introduction of Ecclesiastes and examining creation he wrote the following:

What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever.  Also, the sun rises and the sun sets, And hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses, the wind returns.  All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. (Ecc. 1:3-7 NASB).

Solomon details some of the natural actions of the earth. He observed there is a cyclical nature of the actions of the earth and even though there have been many generations of human beings, the earth will continue to endure.  King David in the Psalms connects the constancy of nature with the consistent nature and glory of God, who has created the heavens and the earth (Ps. 19:1-7). According to a Biblical worldview, the planet’s cyclical pattern as observed by King Solomon is the natural process of the earth and how God has established it. There are climates and regions in the world that experience alterations frequently and yet the earth, and the patterns that are found within the earth, will continue to remain constant. One recent study underscored this reality as climate researchers observed the glaciers in Iceland. The research revealed the rise in the temperature of the earth is not a new phenomenon. The results of the study are shown in the graph below.

Screenshot_2019-02-24-20-57-03
Whitestone G (2019). Inconvenient Facts App (version 1.0.24) [mobile application software] Retrieved from: https://inconvenientfacts.xyz.

This is not to say that Christians are not to be concerned and responsible for the creation and the environment.  Believers understand that the earth itself and everything in the earth, is created by God (Gen. 1:1), and one of the first acts that God had commanded Adam do it when God placed him in the Garden was to work the ground and care for it (Gen. 2:15), which underscores that man was to utilize the resources that God had provided in the earth He made. There are many verses in Scripture that speak of the grandeur and order of creation (Ps. 19:1-7). God is the one who causes the rain to fall providing nourishment for the earth (Ps. 65:9). Christians, as a good work, and to the glory of God care for the environment and nature (2 Cor. 10:31). The Scriptures also emphasize the physical kingdom of God in the future has with it the reality of the saints inheriting the earth (c.f. Matt 5:5; Rev. 20:1-6).  When God speaking with Job giving the reasoning for Job’s affliction points to the constancy of creation as His answer to Job (Chaps. 38-41). From a biblical worldview when it comes to the change of weather patterns and climate these are things that fluctuate irrespective of the usage of fossil fuels. In addition, climate change is not exacerbated by the overpopulation of the world since God commanded mankind to populate the earth (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:7). 

Climate change is a natural phenomenon that occurs on earth. However it is not due to the result of the actions of mankind, or the arrival of industry, but because the world and its natural systems are not static, but dynamic. The Scriptures are clear highlighting God is the creator of heaven and earth, and while generations of human beings have passed away, the earth will continue to endure forever. Mankind, according to God’s word is to reproduce and use the resources on the earth that God has provided (wood, oil, water, land, etc.) for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. 

May we as believers continue to marvel and be amazed at what God has made, as it all reflects His eternality, power, and transcendent nature.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

 

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Human Growth & Development, & The Biblical Worldview

Human Growth & Development, & The Biblical Worldview

Human growth and development is a significant subject to observe in the discipline of psychology. How a human being changes across the lifespan and how they develop cognitively, physically, biologically, and socially is important. There have been many that have observed the behaviors that occur at certain periods of human development. Such examples include Erik Erickson, who developed what was known as eight stages of psychosocial development. Erik Erickson posited that each developmental stage had two developmental outcomes (a positive outcome and a negative outcome) and a crisis that one needed to overcome. If one did not overcome the crisis at each particular development they would lack positive qualities and outcomes in their life. However if one could overcome the crisis in that particular stage of development they would develop these characteristics as shown below:

McLeod, S (2018). Erik erickson eight stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved from  https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html.

Erik Erickson’s theoretical model has greatly influenced human growth and development and has been significant in writing countless textbooks, articles, and other resources on the subject. In addition, there was Jean Piaget, who observed how human beings, specifically young children and preadolescence, build their perception of the world. His model became known as the cognitive developmental model. He theorized that a human being, from the time they are an infant, makes sense of the world predominantly through the use of their five senses. Over the course of time as they continue to grow they acquire more skills in their development. The stages in Jean Piaget’s theory are shown below:


Life span development: psychologist and their contributions. Retrieved from https://ysglifespanpsychologists.weebly.com/jean-piaget.html.

Jean Piaget’s theory has also had a significant impact on psychology, specifically in the discipline of primary education. Many have developed teaching styles and instructional models based on his theory. However, despite the influence these men had in observing human growth and development there was one area of their observations that was missing, and this was the spiritual quality of mankind. For Erik Erikson, he believed that Christianity was a coping strategy one used to resolve the crisis that they were to face at a particular stage of development:

[Erik Erikson] used [Martin] Luther’s example to discuss in much greater detail than before the fifth stage of his eight-stage psychosocial schema, Ego Identity versus Role Confusion, as it culminates in an identity crisis. Martin Luther resolved his identity crisis, according to Erikson, by advancing a new concept of man’s relationship to God, thus initiating the Protestant Reformation.

“Erikson, Erik Homburger.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/erikson-erik-homburger

For Jean Piaget, he did not deny the existence of God and rejected Darwinian evolution. However, Piaget saw God as a creative force or energy and saw knowledge as the highest pursuit. Both theorists missed an important spiritual quality of the human being. How would this specific aspect in the context of the lifespan be observed from a biblical worldview? 

Sacred Scripture reveals that human beings begin in the mind of God. This truth is highlighted in the Book of Jeremiah concerning the prophet Jeremiah when God says:

 Before I formed you in the womb I knew youAnd before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Jer. 1:5 NASB emphasis mine

Before Jeremiah physically existed God had intimate knowledge of who he was as a person. In addition, the sacred Scripture also highlights human beings are not just physical beings, but spiritual beings, as seen in Genesis 2:5-7:

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Genesis 2:5-7 NASB emphasis mine

The sacred Scripture also underscores that God fashioned (or built) Eve from the rib of Adam (Gen. 2:22-24). David emphasized in the Psalms that it is God, by the means of conception, who had knit (or wove) David in the womb of his mother (Ps. 139:13). In short, man’s origin does not begin with the physical aspect of man, but from the biblical worldview, it begins with God.

The development of human beings across the physical lifespan is nothing short than amazing. In fact, mankind was created during day six of creation week and was marked as the capstone of God’s creation (c.f., Gen. 1:26-31). It is the physical development of mankind to grow and develop from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that reveals, along with the rest of creation, in clear detail God’s invisible attributes, power, and divine nature (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). Human growth and development also shows the reality of the curse of the Fall of man. Since all of mankind is affected by this curse this is the reason mankind grows old and eventually physically dies (c.f., Gen. 3:1-19; Ecc. 12:1-7; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 6:23). 

Although Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget observe some of the developmental changes in mankind they, due to their worldview cannot account the development after one dies physically. However, the biblical worldview does account for this aspect of mankind. Sacred Scripture revealed that one exists beyond their physical bodies, with complete cognition, intuition, and volition. For the one who believes in what God has said concerning Himself and His Son has eternal life, that is, they know God and His Son whom He has sent (Jn. 3:15-16; 17:1-3). When one physically dies the believer is carried into Paradise (c.f., Lk. 23:29-43), and is in the presence of the Lord (c.f., 2 Cor. 5:6-9). For living saints, the imminent appearing of Christ is in view with the reality of the rapture of the Church-Age saints (1 Thess. 4:12-19). Believers will be given a new body that will match their spiritual identity (1 Cor. 15:20-57). By contrast, a person who does not have eternal life will be ushered into what is known as outer darkness (c.f., Lk. 16:19-31). Prior to the start of the Eternal state, they will be resurrected, pronounced eternally condemned, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). The precise finality of man, from a biblical worldview, is not when one physically expires, but just like the origin of mankind began it will end with God. 

Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget contributed much to human growth and development in the discipline of psychology. However, both theories when compared to a biblical worldview are incomplete. They acknowledge mankind has the ability to learn and grow however they fail to observe the origin of why mankind does this: Because mankind comes from a Creator who has made mankind with these qualities. By this development, this underscores the invisible attributes and divine nature of God in creation. Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget acknowledge the reality of growing old, however, they fail to know the reason why human beings grow old. This is due to the curse of the Fall that all mankind is subjected to. Finally, both theorists acknowledge the physical expiration of man but they fell short in providing an answer as to what happens after man physically dies. It is the word of God that gives a complete overview of how mankind is to view human growth and development.

Let us as believers in Christ observe the study of the whole man in light of what God’s word has revealed. It is here that mankind is more than just a physical body, but a spiritual being whose purpose is to make much of His Creator. Amen.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

For more resources please visit: www.drluthermsith.com

Hey! I am building a YouTube channel where there is new content being published every week titled Urban Theologian Media. Please go and check out the channel and subscribe at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTKYllo-vyDe76Mpj4R0TOw