Thursday, May 26, 2011


About a year and a half ago our oldest daughter moved to Kansas City, MO.  Years ago this would have meant long stretches of not hearing from her.  But thankfully, with today's techology we talk just as much as we did before she left.  Sometimes I wonder if this is such a good thing. Ha! (jk, Beth:)  Here's a recent chat conversation between us:

beth050680: I love Christmas music.
Its beginning to look a
me: you do know that christmas is still months away, don't you?
beth050680: >.>
me: >.>
beth050680: I know and ill be so sick of it by then I could vomit
Didn't you see my fb status??
me: yes, so stop listening already
beth050680: My internal holiday clock is screwed up this happens every year
me: you're weird
beth050680: But right now I have Christmas spirit!
me: you're weird
Sent at 1:28 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: Iiiiim dreeeeaming of a whiiiiite Christmas
I LOVE bing crosby
me: stop it, you're giving me ear worms!
beth050680: His voice just makes me want to sleep
DECK! The halls with boughs of holly, falalalalalalalala
me: rarararararararara...(A Christmas Story)
beth050680: I just spit water all over my computer and insurance claims. Thanks for that.
me: yw :)
beth050680: >.>
Its beginning to look a lot lik..hey I just heard this song! Ugh
Sent at 1:33 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: Hey when are your concerts this year???
me: i don't know, we're off for the summer now!
Sent at 1:36 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: Ugh
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.....*closes eyes and sways back and forth*
me: they're going to have you carted away pretty soon
Sent at 1:39 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: As long as they play Christmas music in the van that's fine
me: hahaha
beth050680: Psss a lady just walked by me and I got an INTENSE whiff of evergreen
Its not just me
me: it IS just you!
beth050680: Is not
me: what station is playing christmas music?
are you listening to CD's?
beth050680: I'm going to go ask her why she smells like a Christmas tree
me: don't you dare
beth050680: I'm listening to a Christmas pandora station
me: they play christmas music year round?
beth050680: I need you to mail me my little Christmas tree and ornaments that are in the crawl space I want to decorate my office

me: i'm not sending you anything
beth050680: Well yeah its pandora you can search for any kind of music...
You are such a scroooooge!
me: don't know about pandora...
how does that work?
i'm not a scrooge...i just wait until christmas like NORMAL people do
Sent at 1:47 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: You've never heard of pandora!?
Don't judge me, its my internal holiday clocks faullllllt
me: i've heard of it...just never knew what it was all about or how it worked
beth050680: And normal ppl are borinnnng
me: well change it!
normal ppl are rather boring
beth050680: I don't know how
I would not consider myself boring :)
me: you're not're weird.
beth050680: Better than boring
me: not sure about that...
beth050680: >.>
me: :)
beth050680: O coooome all ye faaaaithfuuuuul
Man this guys voice is terrible
me: ignoring you...trying to remain sane...
Sent at 1:53 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: O holy niiiiiight
me: good grief.
beth050680: I love it
Sent at 1:56 PM on Tuesday
beth050680: Do you hear what Iiiiii hear!?
me: no...thank goodness!
always hated that song
beth050680: Bahahahahaha

Love you, Beth. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The law says, “Do this,” and it is never done.
Grace says, “believe in this,” and everything is already done.

Martin Luther (May, 1518)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Biblical interpretation down through the ages - the Post-Reformation period

It might be expected that since the foundation was laid for the literal method of interpretation, Scriptural exegesis based on this foundation would have grown by leaps and bounds.  However, history shows that little progress has been made due to a continual adherence to creeds and church interpretations, as we can see by what C. Matthew McMahon reveals here:

Sola Scriptura does not rely “on the Bible alone” but also on the accepted Christian truths that God has so filtered through the church through able exegetes through the centuries. Oftentimes, Christians have an incorrect idea about Sola Scriptura as if it meant “me and my Bible alone.” However, once the Christian begins to testify of the truths of the Bible, then they are testifying of the regula fide and of accepted truth. To escape “tradition” (little “t”) is impossible. The reason so many Christians often reject Sola Scriptura for Solo Scriptura is that they are part of a schismatic group implementing their own agenda.

Sad but true — we just can't seem to stick to Scripture alone.  And all who try, are declared to be schismatic.

Yet despite this, certain sound principles have come out of this period.  Berkhof summarized these principles: became an established principle that the Bible must be interpreted like every other book.  The special divine element of the Bible was generally disparaged, and the interpreter usually limited himself to the discussion of the historical and critical questions.  The abiding fruit of this period is the clear consciousness of the necessity of the Grammatico-Historical interpretation of the Bible...

The Grammatical School.  This school was founded by Ernesti, who wrote an important work on the interpretation of the New Testament, in which he laid down four principles.  (a) The manifold sense of Scripture must be rejected, and only the literal sense retained.  (b) Allegorical and typological interpretations must be disapproved, except in cases which the author indicates that he meant to combine another sense with the literal.  (c) Since the Bible has the grammatical sense in common with other books, this should be ascertained similarly in both cases.  (d) The literal sense may not be determined by a supposed dogmatical sense.

The Grammatical School was essentially supernaturalistic, binding itself to "the very words of the text as the legitimate source of authentic interpretation and of religious truth" (Elliott).

To summarize the history of interpretation, all interpretation began with the literal interpretation of Ezra.  This literal method became the basic method of Rabbinism.  It was the accepted method used by the New Testament to interpret the Old.  Our Lord and His apostles used the literal method, as did the Church Fathers, until Origen systematized the allegorical method.  Augustine's influence brought this allegorizing method into the established church and brought an end to all true exegesis.  This system continued until the Reformation, at which time the literal method was re-established.  The literal method of interpretation continued and became the basis for all true exegesis.

It is to be concluded, then, that the original and accepted method of interpretation was the literal method, which was used by our Lord, and that all other methods are false methods.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Biblical interpretation down through the ages - the Reformation period - part 2

Two names in particular stand out from the Reformation period — Luther and Calvin. Both men strongly insisted on the literal method of interpretation.  Following is a sketchy time line of the early Reformation years:
•1507 Luther is ordained as a priest at Erfurt
•Henry VIII becomes King of England in 1509
•1509 John Calvin is born
•1510 Luther, sent to Rome on monastic business, sees the corruption of the church
•1513 Leo X becomes Pope
•1515 While teaching on Romans, Luther realizes faith and justification are the work of God
•1517 Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg (this is the first public act of the Reformation)
•1519 Charles V becomes Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
•1521 Luther is excommunicated
•1536 Calvin publishes the first edition of his Institutio Christianae Religionis or Institutes of the Christian Religion

Luther not only wanted to give ordinary people the Word of God, he also wanted to teach them how to interpret it. Toward this end he laid down the following rules of interpretation:

i. First among them was the supreme and final authority of Scripture itself, apart from all ecclesiastical authority or interference...
ii. Secondly, he asserted not only the supreme authority but the sufficiency of Scripture...
iii. Like all the other reformers he set aside the dreary fiction of the fourfold sense... "The literal sense of Scripture alone," said Luther, "is the whole essence of faith and of Christian theology." "I have observed this, that all heresies and errors have originated, not from the simple words of Scripture, as is so universally asserted, but from neglecting the simple words of Scripture, and from the affectation of purely subjective...tropes and inferences." "In the schools of theologians it is a well-known rule that Scripture is to be understood in four ways, literal, allegoric, moral, anagogic. But if we wish to handle Scripture aright, our one effort will be to obtain unum, simplicem, germanum, et certum sensum literalem." Each passage has one clear, definite, and true sense of its own. All others are but doubtful and uncertain opinions."
iv. It need hardly be said, therefore, that Luther, like most of the Reformers, rejected the validity of allegory. He totally denied its claim to be regarded as a spiritual interpretation.
v. Luther also maintained the perspicuity of Scripture... He sometimes came near to the modern remark that, "the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book."
vi. Luther maintained with all his force, and almost for the first time in history, the absolute indefeasible right of private judgment, which, with the doctrine of the spiritual priesthood of all Christians, lies at the base of all Protestantism.

Calvin stated his own position very clearly in his commentary to Galatians:

Let us know then, that the true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning, and let us embrace and abide by it resolutely.

And in his Romans commentary Calvin said:

It is the first business of an interpreter to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.

In fact, Gilbert writes this about Calvin:

...For the first time in a thousand years he gave a conspicuous example of non-allegorical exposition.  One must go back to the best work of the school of Antioch to find so complete a rejection of the method of Philo as is furnished by Calvin.  Allegorical interpretations which had been put forth in the early centuries, like the interpretation of Noah's ark and the seamless garment of Christ, are cast aside as rubbish.  This fact alone gives an abiding and distinguished honor to Calvin's exegetical work.

Farrar sums up this entire period by saying:

...the Reformers gave a mighty impulse to the science of Scriptural interpretation. They made the Bible accessible to all; they tore away and scattered to the winds the dense cobwebs of arbitrary tradition which had been spun for so many centuries over every book, and every text of it; they put the Apocrypha on an altogether lower level than the sacred books; they carefully studied the original languages; they developed the plain, literal sense; they used it for the strengthening and refreshing of the spiritual life. 

(to be continued)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bible interpretation down through the ages - the Reformation period

It wasn't until the Reformation period that any sound exegesis was produced.  In fact, it could be said that the whole Reformation movement was activated by a return to the literal method of interpretation. Certain influences led up to this.  According to Farrar:

Valla, a Canon of St. John one chief link between the Renaissance and the Reformation.  He had...learnt from the revival of letter that Scripture must be interpreted by the laws of grammar and the laws of language.

Erasmus is seen as another link because of his emphasis on the study of the original texts of Scripture. The translators also did a lot to bring people back to understanding the Bible literally.  Again as Farrar explains:

Wiclif, indeed made the important remark that "the whole error in the knowledge of Scripture, and the source of its debasement and falsification by incompetent persons, was the ignorance of grammar and logic.

Farrar also says of Tyndale:

We may borrow similitudes or allegories from the Scriptures," says the great translator Tyndale, "and apply them to our purposes, which allegories are not sense of the Scriptures, but free things besides the Scriptures altogether in the liberty of the Spirit.  Such allegory proveth nothing, it is a mere simile.  God is a Spirit and all his words are spiritual, and His literal sense if spiritual."  "As to those three spiritual senses," says Whitaker, the opponent of Bellarmine, "it is surely foolish to say there are as many senses in Scripture as the words themselves may be transferred and accommodated to bear.  For although the words may be applied and accommodated tropologically, anagogically, allegorically, or any other way, yet there are not therefore various senses, various interpretations, and explications of Scripture, but there is but one sense and that the literal, which may be variously accommodated, and from which various things may be collected.

Even our liberal-minded friend Briggs, who is no friend to the literal interpretation of Scripture, quotes Tyndale:

Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense.  And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way.  And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way.  Neverthelater, the Scripture useth proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle, or allegory signifieth, is over the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently...

 (to be continued)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.  Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart (Lk 2:41-51).

Being a mother is a great gift but it isn't the greatest gift.  The life that Jesus Christ gave to Mary was greater by far than the life she gave to Him (Jn 3:6).

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (Jn 3:16-17).

Do you know this life?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Biblical interpretation down through the ages - the dark ages

As we might expect from whole tone of the Dark Ages, no effort was made to interpret Scripture accurately.  Paul Lee Tan, in The Interpretation of Prophecy, explains that the principles introduced by Augustine not only continued to be used, they were even expanded during this time period:

During the Middle Ages, the fourfold sense of Scripture was taught. Medieval scholars took Origen’s threefold sense—the literal, the moral, and the spiritual—and subdivided the spiritual into the allegorical and the anagogical. As schoolman Thomas Aquinas affirmed, ‘The literal sense is that which the author intends, but God being the Author, we may expect to find in Scripture a wealth of meaning.’ An example of how the fourfold sense was worked out during the Middle Ages is Gen. 1:3, ‘Let there be light.’ Medieval churchmen interpreted that sentence to mean (1) Historically and literally—An act of creation; (2) Morally—May we be mentally illumined by Christ; (3) Allegorically—Let Christ be love; and (4) Anagogically—May we be led by Christ to glory.

Louis Berkhof agrees and says this in Principles of Biblical Interpretation:

In this period, the fourfold sense of Scripture (literal, tropological, allegorical, and analogical) was generally accepted, and it became an established principle that the interpretation of the Bible had to adopt itself to tradition and to the doctrine of the Church.

Even though Aquinas agreed with the idea of looking beyond the primary meaning of the author, he did see some of the dangers of allegorization. Rodney L. Petersen in Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate throughout Church History, tells us that...

Aquinas put forward a threefold argument against allegory: (1) it is susceptible to deception; (2) without a clear method it leads to confusion; and (3) it lacks a sense of the proper integration of Scripture.

And finally, Farrar summarizes this whole period by saying:

...we are compelled to say that during the Dark Ages, from the seventh to the twelfth century, and during the scholastic epoch, from the twelfth to the sixteenth, there are but a few of the many who toiled in this field who added a single essential principle, or furnished a single original contribution to the explanation of the Word of God.  During these nine centuries we find very little except the "glimmerings and decays" of patristic exposition.  Much of the learning which still continued to exist was devoted to something which was meant for exegesis yet not one writer in hundreds showed any true conception of what exegesis really implies.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

All wound up

A preacher was wired for sound with a lapel mike, and as he preached, he moved briskly about the platform, jerking the mike cord as he went.

He moved to one side of the platform, getting wound up in the cord and nearly tripping before jerking it again and moving to the other side.  Back and forth he went, getting more and more tangled up.

After several more circles and jerks, a little girl in the third pew leaned toward her mother and whispered, "If he gets loose, will he hurt us?"

Monday, May 2, 2011

The black dog

"Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy."

"I find myself frequently depressed - perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions."

Charles H. Spurgeon in When a Preacher is Downcast;
and, The Minister's Fainting Fits, Lectures to My Students, Lecture XI, 1856 

...when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God...comforts the depressed...(2 Cor 7:5-6a)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ (2 Cor 1:3-5).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Biblical interpretation down through the ages - the rise of allegorism - part 2

After Origen fell out of favor, the allegorical method might have faded away, had it not been for Augustine. He, according to Farrar, was one of the first to make Scripture conform to the interpretation of the church:

The exegesis of St. Augustine is marked by the most glaring defects...He laid down the rule that the Bible must be interpreted with reference to Church Orthodoxy, and that no Scriptural expression can be out of accordance with any other...

...Snatching up the Old Philonian and Rabbinic rule which had been repeated for so many generations, that everything in Scripture which appeared to be unorthodox or immoral must be interpreted mystically, he introduced confusion into his dogma of supernatural inspiration by admitting that there are many passages "written by the Holy Ghost," which are objectionable when taken in their obvious sense. He also opened the door to arbitrary fancy.

...When once the principle of allegory is admitted, when once we start with the rule that whole passages and books of Scripture say one thing when they mean another, the reader is delivered bound hand and foot to the caprice of the interpreter. He can be sure of absolutely nothing except what is dictated to him by the Church, and in all ages the authority of "the Church" has been falsely claimed for the presumptuous tyranny of false prevalent opinions. In the days of Justin Martyr and of Origen, Christians had been driven to allegory by an imperious necessity. It was the only means known to them by which to meet the shock which wrenched the Gospel free from the fetters of Judaism. They used it to defeat the crude literalism of fanatical heresies; or to reconcile the teachings of philosophy with the truths of the Gospel. But in the days of Augustine the method had degenerated into an artistic method of displaying ingenuity and supporting ecclesiasticism. It had become the resource of a faithlessness which declined to admit, of an ignorance which failed to appreciate, and of an indolence which refused to solve the real difficulties in which the sacred book abounds...

...Unhappily for the Church, unhappily for any real apprehension of Scripture, the allegorists, in spite of protest, were completely victorious.

It seems quite clear that the allegorical method didn't spring from the study of Scripture, but rather from a desire to combine Greek philosophy and the Word of God. It didn't come out of a desire to present the truths of Scripture, but to pervert them.

Even though Augustine was successful in infusing a new method of interpretation into the church, there were those who still held to the original literal method. Gilbert notes this of the School of Antioch:

Theodore and John may be said to have gone far toward a scientific method of exegesis inasmuch as they saw clearly the necessity of determining the original sense of Scripture in order to make any profitable use of the same. To have kept this end steadily in view was a great achievement. It made their work stand out in strong contrast by the side of the Alexandrian school. Their interpretation was extremely plain and simple as compared with that of Origen. They utterly rejected the allegorical method.

The history of interpretation would have looked very different had the method of the Antioch School been universally adopted. But, as J. W. Pentecost well said,

Unfortunately for sound interpretation, the ecclesiasticism of the established church, which depended for its position on the allegorical method, prevailed, and the views of the Antioch School were condemned as heretical.

(to be continued)