Sunday, October 30, 2011

principles of interpretation

Shared this with Cru study group leaders tonight:

An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation

Assumption:  the Bible has a dual authorship: divine and human (2 Peter 2:21; 2 Tim. 3:16).  Because of its human authorship it comes to us in human language and culture, and general hermeneutical principles apply (i.e., use of an historical, grammatical, rhetorical approach).  Because of its divine origin it is also authoritative, with integrity (without contradiction), and inerrant in the originals. Because this is God’s revelation we must  seek the ministry of the Holy Spirit for true understanding (1 Cor 2:13-16).
There are three related levels, or senses, of meaning:

The Literal (historical)… what did it mean to the original hearers at that time?
The Spiritual (theological; typological)… what does it mean for all time?
The Moral (ethical; application)… what does it mean for us at this time?

Some basic principles:

1. Take Scripture first in its plain and normal sense. 
2. Understand the historical background of any passage. 
3. Interpret a passage in harmony with its larger context. 
4. Define words by their historical usage, rather than by root or later usage.  
5. Any Scripture has basically one meaning, though many applications.
6. Interpret a passage in light of its literary genre. 
7. Identify figures of speech, which are not meant to be taken literally.  
8. Biblical examples are normative only when supported by a command.  
9. Avoid building a doctrine or practice on one passage of Scripture.
10. A doctrine is not biblical unless sums up all that Scripture says about that topic. 
11. Examine the rationale for any command – distinguish between unchanging principles and cultural applications of those principles.  
12. Allow for progress of revelation—some topics become more clear in later Scripture.  
13. Seek to understand how the passage fits into the unfolding history of redemption. 
14. Identify types (foreshadowing patterns) in line with other clear Scriptural teaching.
15. Prophecy can have both literal and symbolic elements. Fulfillment may come in installments.
16. Compare Scripture with Scripture – the Bible best explains itself.  

Berkhof, L. Principles of Biblical Interpretation
Carson, D. A. “Must I Learn How to Interpret the Bible?” Modern Reformation 5:3. 
Henrichsen, Walter.  A Layman's Guide to Interpreting the Bible. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

on natural law

"For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them..."  (Romans 2:14-15 ESV)

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Jay Budziszewski on Natural Law...

Law has rightly been defined as an ordinance of reason, for the common good, made by the one who has care of the community, and promulgated. Consider the natural law against murder. It is not an arbitrary whim, but a rule that the mind can grasp as right. It serves not some special interest, but the universal good. Its author has care of the universe, for he (God) created it. And it is not a secret rule, for God has so arranged his creation that every rational being knows about it...
Our subject is called natural law because it is built into the design of human nature and woven into the fabric of the normal human mind. Another reason for calling it natural is that we rightly take it to be about what really is—a rule like the prohibition of murder reflects not a mere illusion or projection, but genuine knowledge. It expresses the actual moral character of a certain kind of act...
God has made some things known to all human beings; these are general revelation. He has also made additional things known to the community of faith; these are special revelation. Natural law is about general revelation, not special revelation. However, a Christian natural-law thinker will make use of special revelation to illuminate general revelation—and will use God-given reasoning powers to understand them both...
Natural law is moral reality. It affects the day-to-day routine of the average business executive the same way that it affects everyone else. Like others, then, business executives need to know that if they say “I am doing the best I can, but everything is shades of gray,” they are lying to themselves. Most of the time the right thing to do is quite plain. Like others, they also need to face up to the fact that some moral rules hold without exception. Figuring out a way to outwit or outrun the usual bad consequences does not make a basic wrong right...
A conceit of contemporary liberal thought is that we have no business raising our voices in the public square unless we abstract ourselves from our traditions, suspend judgment about whether there is a God, and adopt a posture of neutrality among competing ideas of what is good for human beings. This is a facade—a concealed authoritarianism. Neutralism is a method of ramming a particular moral judgment into law without having to go to the trouble of justifying it, all by pretending that it is not a moral judgment...  
I denied Christianity, denied God, denied even the distinction between good and evil. What happened to me was what the Gospel of John calls the conviction of sin. I began to experience horror about myself: Not a feeling of guilt or shame or inadequacy—just an overpowering true intuition that my condition was objectively evil. I could not have told why my condition was horrible; I only perceived that it was. It was as though a man were to notice one afternoon that the sky had always been blue, though for years he had considered it red. Augustine argued that although evil is real, it is derivative; the concept of a “pure” evil makes no sense, because the only way to get a bad thing is to take a good thing and ruin it. I had always considered this a neat piece of reasoning with a defective premise. Yes, granted the horrible, there had to exist a wonderful of which the horrible was the perversion—but I did not grant the horrible. Now all that had changed. I had to grant the horrible, because it was right behind my eyes. But as Augustine had perceived, if there was evil then there must also be good. In letting this thought through, my mental censors blundered. I began to realize, not only that my errors had been total, but that they had not been honest errors at all, merely self-deceptions. Anything might be true, even the claims of Jesus Christ, which I had rejected some ten or twelve years earlier. A period of intense reading and searching followed. I cannot recall a moment at which I began to believe, but there came a moment of realization that I had believed for some time, without noticing.

Full interview here

Sunday, October 23, 2011

at the pool of bethesda

Jesus comes to the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda.  By Bartolom√© Esteban Murillo, 1617-1682.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

cool picture, cool pen

This is a scan from Popular Science, November 1950 issue, which had an article on "How Your Fountain Pen Is Made."  This particular pen displayed is the Sheaffer Valiant Touchdown. 

I have one currently inked, exactly like these pictured, which came from the Fountain Pen Restoration site.  It has a conical, triumph nib, and is a really smooth writer.

debt crisis explained

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the gospel transforms

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)

Here's a good quote from "Of First Importance" blog, from Michael Horton, shared with the Gravitate study on Romans...

“The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation’ not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of letting that Good News sink in and responding appropriately; becoming the people whom God says that we already are in Christ.” 
--Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Baker Books, 2009)

Monday, October 17, 2011

theologize your kindle

Here are two excellent (and free) systematic theologies that you can download to your Kindle:

Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology in 3 Volumes here.  

Robert L. Dabney's Systematic Theology here.  

Also, speaking of free, here are many of the works of Octavius Winslow (19th century English Baptist pastor, who was a contemporary and friend of Charles Spurgeon) available for download in various formats here.    

Sunday, October 16, 2011

excerpts from luther on galatians

Here are some highlights from my reading of Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians, translate by Theodore Graebner.

"The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart."  

"We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are freely granted unto us at the preaching of faith, in spite of our sinfulness. We are not to waste time thinking how unworthy we are of the blessings of God. We are to know that it pleased God freely to give us His unspeakable gifts. If He offers His gifts free of charge, why not take them? Why worry about our lack of worthiness? Why not accept gifts with joy and thanksgiving?"

"A person becomes a Christian not by working, but by hearing. The first step to being a Christian is to hear the Gospel. When a person has accepted the Gospel, let him first give thanks unto God with a glad heart, and then let him get busy on the good works to strive for, works that really please God, and not man-made and self-chosen works."

"True Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone. If we lose sight of Christ and begin to consider our past, we simply go to pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazen serpent, Christ crucified, and believe with all our heart that He is our righteousness and our life. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live, who lives in us, is Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil."

"Faith in God constitutes the highest worship, the prime duty, the first obedience, and the foremost sacrifice. Without faith God forfeits His glory, wisdom, truth, and mercy in us. The first duty of man is to believe in God and to honor Him with his faith. Faith is truly the height of wisdom, the right kind of righteousness, the only real religion... Faith truly honors God. And because faith honors God, God counts faith for righteousness... Because of my faith in Christ, God overlooks my distrust, the unwillingness of my spirit, my many other sins."

"Let us become expert in the art of transferring our sins, our death, and every evil from ourselves to Christ; and Christ's righteousness and blessing from Christ to ourselves."

"The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace. God is the God of the humble, the miserable, the afflicted. It is His nature to exalt the humble, to comfort the sorrowing, to heal the broken-hearted, to justify the sinners, and to save the condemned. The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior who came into the world, not to break the bruised reed, nor to quench the smoking flax, but to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, and to grant forgiveness of sins to all the captives."

"Accordingly each Christian continues to experience in his heart times of the Law and times of the Gospel. The times of the Law are discernible by heaviness of heart, by a lively sense of sin, and a feeling of despair brought on by the Law. These periods of the Law will come again and again as long as we live. ... When the Law carries things too far, say: 'Mister Law, you are not the whole show. There are other and better things than you. They tell me to trust in the Lord.' There is a time for the Law and a time for grace. Let us study to be good timekeepers. It is not easy. Law and grace may be miles apart in essence, but in the heart, they are pretty close together. In the heart fear and trust, sin and grace, Law and Gospel cross paths continually."

Monday, October 10, 2011

cloud reader

One of the cool features of Kindle is the Cloud Reader app.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

21 principles of effective leadership

Here are *21 principles of effective leadership that Nehemiah demonstrated in chapters 1 - 2 of the book of Nehemiah:

He established a reasonable and attainable goal
He had a sense of mission
He was willing to get involved
He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal
He patiently waited for God's timing
He showed respect to his superior
He prayed at crucial times
He made his request with tact and graciousness
He was well prepared and thought of his needs in advance
He went through proper channels
He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan
He investigated the situation firsthand
He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem
He identified himself as one with the people
He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal
He assured them God was in the project
He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles
He displayed God's confidence in facing obstacles
He did not argue with opponents
He was not discouraged by opposition
He courageously used the authority of his position.

*From Donald K. Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, p. 23.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


And they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire."  

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days...   

(Nehemiah 1:3-4a ESV)

Principles of Leadership from Nehemiah #1

The principle of identification: the leader identifies with the people he is serving. 

Nehemiah mourned the humiliation of his ancestral home, the “city of the great King” (Psalm  48:2).  “These are my people, my ancestors, my home…”  Even though he probably had never been to Jerusalem before, he felt the humiliation of being a part of the chastened people of God. 

Good leadership begins with feeling – we identify with the people to whom we are sent (or to whom we belong).   Jesus left heaven to embrace our humanity and our humiliation. He too wept over the same city that Nehemiah did, mourning the future devastation of Jerusalem (Luke 19:21).  He shed tears for his friend Lazarus taken in death (John 11:35).  

We share humanity with all others created in the image of God.  We too are in the body and share suffering in this world, with those who are our neighbors.  We share a common identity and name with our kindred in families and nations.  

Yet, greater than this, we share with all other believers our fellowship in Christ.  They are united to the same Savior as we are, and we all are part of his one body: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  

We too live to see the building up of the people of God from lowliness until the day that they will inhabit the glorious City of God, the New Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).  

So, godly leadership in the church, and in the home, begins with our identification with the people of God, seeing them as “my people”, sharing in their needs and destiny.  As a Christian parent I begin my parenting task by remembering my children’s needs, their high calling, their humble frame, and our shared destiny in God’s kingdom.  I begin with compassion for where they are, but I view them in faith as mature adults in the glory of God’s family.  

So before Nehemiah prays, and before he plans, and before he does anything, he feels.  He shares in the suffering of his people.  Good principle for us to follow.  

Photo above: Jewish men praying at the western wall in Jerusalem.

not theological mumbo jumbo

Good quote from the Of First Importance blog:

"In the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Christ, man’s sin was more than visible. Man’s disobedience to God, his rejection of truth, his cruelty, his lies, his hate, his greed, his vested interest, his oppression, his exploitation, his abuse of power, his deliberate choice of evil — all were there on the cross for everyone to see, hear, and feel. That is why the biblical statement that Jesus became the sin of the world is not some theological mumbo jumbo. It is a statement describing historical fact. It was not Jesus who was judged and condemned on that cross; it was human sin.”

(Vishal Mangalwadi, Truth and Transformation, 2009)

Monday, October 3, 2011

sunday notes and quotes

"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."  (John 3:31-36 NIV)

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”  (C. S. Lewis)

"Jesus is excellent in his origin: he is from God; Jesus is excellent in his words: he speaks God’s words, and Jesus is excellent in his power: He acts with God’s power and authority through the Holy Spirit. He is very God of very God, as the Nicene Creed reminds us:  'I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man...'"  (David Kingston)

“Belief is obedience to the utterance of God; disobedience is unbelief. Belief is thus defined as commitment to authority rather than a passive opinion.”  (Merrill Tenney)

"He must become greater; I must become less."  (John 3:30 NIV)

“When I am gone, don’t talk about William Carey; talk about William Carey’s Savior. I desire that Christ alone might be magnified.”   (William Carey, Baptist missionary to China, as he lay dying)

"Based on today’s passage we can say that believing in Jesus means at least three things:
--First and foremost it means to believe with all our being the key truths about him: that he is God and that he paid the price for our sins on the cross and that he rose from the dead.
--Secondly it follows that this belief will turn into grateful worship of him as our Lord and our God.
--Thirdly, as we see from John’s example, it means that we will gladly serve him and his body, which is the church. In so doing, we will look to make much of Jesus and little of ourselves."  (David Kingston)

movie science and actual science

Sunday, October 2, 2011


A couple of time lines from class today...

beginning nehemiah

Understanding and Applying the book of Nehemiah...

1)  Nehemiah recounts God’s providence in preserving the people of Israel as a minority in the midst of hostile nations.  In God’s sovereign plan the line of Judah and David would continue, and in the fullness of time bring forth the Messiah to bless the nations (Gen 12:3; 49:10; 2 Sam 7:16; Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4).    

2)  "The restoration and rebuilding after the exile prefigure Christ’s salvation (Col. 1:13) and the building of the church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20–22)."  (The ESV Study Bible)

3)  Nehemiah shows us what the renewal of God’s covenant people looks like in the promised land.  “The essence of the kingdom is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”  (Graeme Goldsworthy)  

4)  Nehemiah gives us a biblical model for leadership.  “What kind of leadership does the Bible present as exemplary?  Even more concisely, what is godly leadership?  This question will help guide us through the book of Nehemiah.”  (Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament)

5)  Nehemiah encourages us that, no matter how humble or difficult our circumstances, God’s good work will prevail.  “The book of Nehemiah is designed to teach us that only with God's help can we actually change ourselves and recover from the damage and ruin of the past. In an individual's life the rebuilding of the walls is a picture of re-establishing the strength of that life.”  (Ray Stedman)