Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 1)

(From Theologically Driven)

For decades it was assumed, by both sides of the debate between dispensational and Reformed theology, that the primary distinction between the two models (there were really no other viable evangelical options in the early days) was hermeneutical—dispensationalists held consistently to a “literal” reading of Scripture (and most importantly the OT prophetic portions of Scripture), while the Reformed were comfortable with a nonliteral (e.g., spiritual or typological) interpretation of those same texts.

Anthony Hoekema, for instance, reflecting this understanding from a Reformed perspective, wrote in his chapter of The Meaning of the Millennium,

Premillennialists, particularly those of dispensationalist persuasion, are committed to what is commonly called the ‘literal’ interpretation of Old Testament prophecy…. Amillennialists, on the other hand, believe that though many Old Testament prophecies are indeed to be interpreted literally, many others are to be interpreted in a nonliteral way. (172)

Read more about Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 1)

Why Was Spurgeon So Successful?

Spurgeon at age 23

Some time ago I was given the then-new volume of “missing sermons” of C.H. Spurgeon published by Day One Publishers. C.H. Spurgeon has always been be my “preaching hero,” and I have read far more of his sermons than those of everyone else combined. His autobiography shaped me like nothing else in the early days of my ministry. We who are Calvinists often claim that his success was due to his Puritan Calvinism. In the 1990’s I argued in an unpublished paper that it was Spurgeon’s plain speech, not just his Calvinism, that made him so successful. Here is an excerpt from that paper.

What fails in the theological interpretation of Spurgeon is its inability to explain how many other English preachers who had held as tenaciously to Calvinistic tenets as Spurgeon did were not nearly as successful as he was! Furthermore, it fails to explain the tremendous appeal of preachers like his contemporaries Joseph Parker in London and Russell Conwell in Philadelphia—who were not Calvinists! What Spurgeon brought to the pulpit, along with an effective evangelical Calvinism, was a populism born out of his own personal experience. One of the ways in which this was manifested was his commitment to plain speech. Read more about Why Was Spurgeon So Successful?

Legalism & Galatians Part 2: Law, Liberty & The Flesh

In a previous post, I asserted that popular confusion about law, grace, and the Christian life is often partly due to misunderstanding what was happening in the Galatian churches and what Paul taught to correct it. I argued that the Galatian trouble centered on their understanding of justification and its relationship to Mosaic Law, and that they were led astray by unbelievers who, in reality, cared as little for the Law of Moses as they did for the gospel.

Seen in this light, the epistle does not encourage sweeping rejections of effort and struggle in the Christian life, nor does it provide a basis for excluding firm boundaries against sin (often termed “man-made rules”) in Christian living.

But loose ends remain. Further study of the letter not only resolves the remaining issues but also clarifies common points of confusion such as the distinction between conscious self-discipline vs. “the flesh” (or the non-biblical term, “self-effort”) and the difference between slavery to the Law vs. obedience to Christ. Read more about Legalism & Galatians Part 2: Law, Liberty & The Flesh

Nine Thoughts on Retirement

Today is a milestone for me—my last day on the job. I am retiring after 21 years of service at Wells Fargo and 49 years of working. I received a paycheck today and two weeks from today will be my last paycheck. That will feel weird.

My first jobs were neighborhood labor jobs of shoveling snow, cleaning out garages, pulling weeds and lawn service. Dad’s view was that if you wanted something there was a way to earn it. I became a little capitalist at the age of 13. My first job working for a company was at the Witterstaetter wholesale greenhouses in Delhi Ohio. I was paid a farm labor rate of $ 1.00 per hour. I hauled dirt, planted cuttings, and delivered flowers in a 1965 Ford Econovan.

Dad had us pay our way to college and during those years, I sold shoes, loaded newspaper bundles, worked for American Airlines as a campus sales representative, and worked at Monsanto Chemical Company for four summers. Read more about Nine Thoughts on Retirement

Book Review - Scripture and Counseling

There is no doubt that Jay Adams has had an indelible mark on the Christian counseling movement. While he was not the first to place a high view of Scripture as the ground of the practice, he certainly brought a renewed focus to the role of Scripture in Christian counseling. There are many pastors, counselors, and Christian counseling organizations that owe a debt of gratitude to his work.

While the role of Scripture in counseling is often touched on in a general manner, it is not often enough treated as thoroughly as it should be, given its foundational nature for counseling. We often say that Sscripture should guide our counseling but what does that look like face-to-face? Filling this much needed area The Biblical Counseling Coalition has brought together a group of qualified pastors and counselors to write Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World edited by Bob Kellemen & Jeff Forrey. This book provides not only a biblical and systematic theology of Scripture’s role in counseling but it also provides the counselor with a step-by-step guide in practicing the application of Scripture to the life of the believer. Read more about Book Review - Scripture and Counseling

Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 3)

Pompeii relief depicting a bull, ram, & boar prepared for sacrifice. (Project Gutenberg)

(Read the series so far)

Weakness is How Jesus Exercises Lordship.

Romans 14:4-13—The Servant and His Master

In Romans 14:4 Paul explains why the weak shouldn’t judge the strong: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”1 (ESV). Only the master may give orders and judge whether his servant is in good standing. By this analogy, the weak and strong are servants of a Master who chooses to give different orders to different servants. Some clean the house; some cook. Therefore, the cook gets orders that apply to him but not to the maid.

The common view of the weak brother implies that there is one correct set of orders about which the weak and strong have different levels of maturity, understanding, and confidence. But this passage says that neither servant can be sure that his brother has the same requirements for good standing as he himself does. Read more about Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 3)

An Analysis of the Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The Court’s Legal Justification For this Ruling

The Court justified its ruling requiring States to both license and recognize same-sex unions on four pillars. They are:1

  • individual autonomy and liberty
  • a two-person union is important to individuals
  • it safeguards children and families
  • it safeguards social order

These arguments, and the dissenting opinion, are analyzed below. Read more about An Analysis of the Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision, Part 2

An Analysis of the Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision, Part 1


On Friday, June 26 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark ruling about same-sex marriage. Here is what it determined:

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.1

What does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution state? Here is Section 1, which is the portion relevant to this discussion: Read more about An Analysis of the Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision, Part 1