A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 1)

(From Maranatha Baptist Seminary Journal; used by permission.)

Hebrews 6:4-8 is one of the most difficult New Testament passages to interpret. Almost every article written on this passage begins with a statement of its difficulty.1 At the same time, the interpretation of this passage is crucial to the interpretation of the other warning passages in Hebrews and to the development of one’s theological position on several soteriological issues.

There are three key issues in Hebrews 6:4-8 that must be interpreted in order to arrive at an acceptable interpretation of the entire paragraph. The first issue is whether or not “those who were once enlightened” are actually saved.2 The second issue is the nature of the falling away in verse six. Is it a rejection of Christ’s offer of salvation, or is it a rejection of some aspect within Christianity? The third issue is the nature of the judgment for falling away in verses four and eight. Is the judgment eternal damnation of an unbeliever, or is it the sever chastisement of an erring believer? The proper interpretation of Hebrews 6:4-8 must provide solutions of each of these issues. Read more about A Warning for True Believers Who Lack Faith (Part 1)

Sovereignty of God & Human Responsibility: Nehemiah & the Daniel 9 Prophecy

Daniel 9:24-27 is a monumental passage, emblematic of God’s sovereignty over human events. It provides the chronological skeletal system of Biblical prophecy, recording Gabriel’s revelation to Daniel in around 516 B.C., of a 490-year timeline for Israel’s future: “for Jerusalem, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy” (9:24). The clock begins its countdown with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (9:25).

The certainty of the timeline is non-negotiable and inalterable. The seventy sevens had been decreed or determined, as the Hebrew term nichetaka (decreed, determined) is in the niphal perfect, which typically indicates a passive (niphal) and completed (perfect) action. The timeline had already been determined. Daniel would be able to “know and discern” (9:25a) the timing from a particular point in history—a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

When we examine the Biblical literature, we find only one decree regarding the rebuilding of the temple. There was a decree to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4,5:17), but that did not match Gabriel’s description of the decree to rebuild the city itself. For the decree matching the Daniel 9 description, we look to Nehemiah 2. Read more about Sovereignty of God & Human Responsibility: Nehemiah & the Daniel 9 Prophecy

Review - The Territories of Science & Religion

Image of The Territories of Science and Religion
by Peter Harrison
University Of Chicago Press 2015
Hardcover 320

Science Versus Religion: a New Angle

The battle between Science and Religion has been presented to the wider public as a struggle between reason and superstition. In the present intellectual climate, where the ghosts of logical positivism have been far from exorcised from the corridors of scientific thinking, any countering of the reigning attitude is most welcome. The volume under review is an absorbing historical account of the way the words scientia and religio have been used through time, and how they have changed their meanings since about the middle of the 19th century. The book under review is scholarly yet readable, comprising six chapters, an epilogue, fifty plus pages of notes, and indices.

It may seem that a book-length study on two archaic words would scarcely qualify as a riveting read, still less that it would be of any relevance. But Peter Harrison, who is a distinguished historian of science at the University of Queensland in Australia, has managed to produce a study which does both things. The resultant work is a real contribution to the Science versus Religion debate; a debate that has been impacted to a large degree by its wrong understandings of the terminology. Read more about Review - The Territories of Science & Religion

Dispensationalism Then & Now, Part 2

(From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission. Read Part 1.)

A Renewed Understanding of Hermeneutics

My personal concerns have to do with some of the new proposals for a dispensational approach to the Bible, i.e., a critique of some of the structural points that hitherto were not characteristic of dispensational thought. One major principle will be discussed here—biblical hermeneutics. There are other factors that could be dealt with profitably as well.

Principles of Biblical interpretation are the first order of concerns in structuring a doctrine or a comprehensive method of interpreting the Bible, foundational to correct exegesis itself. Often the order is reversed. It is often asserted with vigor that Biblical hermeneutics must come from interpreting the Bible itself, i.e., a simple matter of exegesis. But this appears to be a circular procedure, i.e., using hermeneutical principles on the Bible in order to find the Bible’s hermeutical principles (to be used on the Bible). Read more about Dispensationalism Then & Now, Part 2

Dispensationalism Then & Now, Part 1

Detail from the cover of a Scofield Reference Bible (ca. 1917)

(From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission.)

In early 1992, I was invited by Dr. Ernest Pickering, pastor of Fourth Baptist Church and president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, to participate in the annual Founders Conference in the seminary. He expressed an opinion that we needed “a clear call on the subject of dispensationalism.” I was honored to be asked and was delighted to go. I suppose there is never a time when we do not need to refresh ourselves on doctrinal truth, especially the distinctives of dispensationalism.

Dispensationalism is simply an approach to understanding the overall storyline of the Bible. As a set of systematized principles and teachings it began about 1825 with John Nelson Darby. However, there were unsystematized principles of a dispensational nature long before him. There has been refinement and modification over the years in dispensational thought. Revision, reevaluation and more precise statement are always ongoing in theology and biblical studies.

A brief historical outline of general dispensational thinking is given here, followed by a discussion of one major area that calls for clarification and/or a renewed understanding. Read more about Dispensationalism Then & Now, Part 1

The Temples

Southern wall of the temple mount enclosure ("second temple").

Many religions had multiple temples, but God revealed a different standard: He only permitted one central sanctuary. Deuteronomy 12:5 (ESV) states, “But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go.” In contrast, an altar was to be built wherever God made an appearance (Exodus 20:24), but not a building. Only certain types of sacrifices could be made upon these local altars.

Although there are many physical and spiritual aspects to the Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, for example), we must limit our focus.

Preventing Confusion: The Temple vs. the Synagogue

Modern Judaism does not use the term “temple” in the same way the Bible does. Jewish congregations often name their synagogues (meeting places) with the title “temple.” Temple Shalom would be an example. In actuality, these synagogues are not temples in the Biblical sense. In the Biblical sense, the Jewish people have not had their Temple since 70 AD. Read more about The Temples

When Pastors Place Their Nose Where It Doesn’t Belong

Several decades ago as Jay Adams and men like him began writing on the topic of biblical counseling, conservative pastors gained a needed and necessary foothold in the area of the psyche (ψυχή), or care for the soul.

For a decade or so before the birth of what was called nouthetic counseling, conservative churchmen were buying the notion that you could not take the pastor anything dealing with the mind because he simply was not qualified. Thankfully, biblical counseling has restored the right appreciation for the pastor’s role of leadership in the area of mental, emotional and spiritual health vs. idea that only secular psychology can help in the various challenges of anthropology. 

A few years ago I noted in my book The Pyramid and the Box: The Decision-Making Process in a Local New Testament Church (Wipf & Stock, 2013), that I was seeing a couple of disturbing trends among ecclesiastical leaders, especially from my perspective as Western Coordinator for Institute of Biblical Leadership (IBL). Some pastors are self-deceived that they are something of a mediator of a theocracy, and in their mind, they are Theo! Read more about When Pastors Place Their Nose Where It Doesn’t Belong

What Is Forgiveness?

(From Theologically Driven. Used with permission.)

In the past few months I have encountered several conflicting ideas about forgiveness in unexpected counseling situations. Nor is the confusion confined to the uninformed or immature.

The biblical idea of forgiveness is an elusive one that is often missed entirely or sometimes mixed with other ideas—ideas that are not necessarily bad, but that are not exactly what the Bible is trying to convey by its use of the word forgiveness, either. Note the following: Read more about What Is Forgiveness?