Christian Word Games

Pastors face a temptation of preaching to the specks. Every pastor knows certain things that will rattle the cages and rally the troops. They are cards kept up the sleeve to be pulled out when an “amen!” or “‘atta boy” are needed. I tried to avoid those when I was pastoring. When the text I was preaching did mention the speck I tried to draw attention to the beam. Getting to the point: when the Bible spoke against homosexuality, I also tried to remind them what else was included in such a prohibition. And what was to be embraced in its stead.

Conservative Christians have done much to muzzle and belittle the authority of God’s word. On The Gospel Coalition Thomas Kidd has written that Christians “be charitable to those in the church (and outside the church) with whom we disagree on [the] most contentious topic [of the 6 days of creation].” The article follows what has become the standard conservative evangelical argument for not taking the days of Genesis 1 literally. Geology, silence of Scripture, no uniform church tradition, etc. all give reason to allow that the days of Genesis 1 are not 24 hour days.

No doubt, the same website will sooner or later post or link to an article about homosexuality and/or marriage and/or gender issues and quote Genesis 1:27 and 2:24:

 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The argument will made having already surrendered any linguistic, logical, or exegetical high ground. If “there was evening and there was morning, the first day…there was evening and there was morning, the second day…there was evening and there was morning, the third day…there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day…there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day…there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day…” does not mean 6 24-hour days, how can you dogmatically argue that “male” and “female” refer to a human born with certain X and Y chromosomes?

If we have already surrendered the meaning of words to each other; on what grounds can we fight for their meaning against unbelievers?

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Does it really matter what you believe about God’s Creation?

God of the ages-
You have seen fit to bless us with the coming of a new year.
May you receive the offering of our joy for it.
Even as your Spirit offers us the sobriety
Of knowing this day may be our last.

In this new year I have again reset my Bible reading odometer. Once again, I am reading one chapter from 10 different books. On day one, as I read the first chapters of Genesis, John, and Romans, I was impressed at the importance of creation.

The Bible begins with an explanation of man’s existence- not God’s. God is not “properly” introduced, or explained: he is simply there. God is presented as the one who by his Word (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24) and through his Spirit (Genesis 1:2) brings all things into being. The existence of the universe, and man who inhabits it, is attributed to a God able to bring said universe into existence.

If such a God is powerful enough to create all that exists, do you suppose he would also be intelligent enough to communicate to others how he brought all things into being? Is he so powerful that he is unable to communicate simply? If such a God really exists; and if he did what Genesis 1 says he did; can Genesis 1 be trusted to tell us how he did it? Is God powerful enough to create all things instantaneously?

If God used, or needed, billions of years to accomplish creation I can only come to one of these conclusions: God is not as powerful as his word seems to indicate; or God is not a very good communicator.

John 1 brings the Trinitarian allusions in Genesis 1 into sharper focus. The Word through whom all things were made is Jesus (John 1:3). You cannot keep your doctrine of creation and your doctrine of Christ separate. For better or worse, whatever you say and believe about God’s creation in Genesis is going to affect what you say and believe about Jesus. Did Jesus make a man named Adam? Did that Adam’s sin bring death into the world? Did Jesus enter into his creation to obliterate the results of that Adam’s sin?

Does it really matter how I answer these questions? According to Romans 1 it does: at least, eventually. The exit ramp for the road to perdition is clearly marked: “Deny Creation.” Man takes his first step away from God by denying the testimony of creation (Rom. 1:20). Thinking of previous questions, should we take anything from the assertion that those who deny God’s power in creation are “without excuse”? Does Romans 1:20 indicate anything about the understandability of Genesis 1? Does Genesis 1 have a meaning that God hid from his people for over 6,000 years? Was mankind in the dark about Genesis 1 until Darwin came along and shed his light on the matter? If so, how could pre-Darwinian man be “without excuse”?

Does your understanding of creation matter? I guess only if your understanding of Christ matters. I guess only if eternal salvation matters.

On College Expos and Returning to the Creation Museum

This past Saturday I took a group of teens to the Creation Museum for the College Expo they were having.

A note to college reps: I know why you are there. You know why you are there. But there is a way to politely cut off talking with a pastor so that you may talk to a prospective student. Again, I know why you are there, but being overly rude to pastors, or youth pastors, etc isn’t exactly going to help your cause in the long run.

It was funny to watch the reps from Fairhaven. Whenever a girl would walk up, the eyes of the reps would ever so quickly drop down to see what sort of garments were covering (or not covering) the legs. (Both the reps were female BTW. They weren’t being pervs…)

It was good to talk a bit with the reps from an Alma Mater. And a bit sad. I am praying for you.

As for the Creation Museum…

It was the second time I have visited. The last time was about three years ago. The facilities and displays are beginning to show their age. I don’t know how one goes about dusting some of those dioramas, but it should probably be done. Same things goes for man of the life-size displays.

Hey guys: before you sink 25 million into to a boat (pun somewhat intended) you might want to give a little attention to what you already have.

I had a very good time with a group of kids that I could not have been happier about.

John Calvin on Creation and the Problem of Evolution

Although we are convinced that our wit is so weak that it is pitiful, we will not give up the foolish opinion that we are wise. But when we are brought before God we are driven to know that we are nothing and that we must not deceive ourselves by our own self-worth. See how Job sets God before us here. So we would know the wisdom that is in him alone he also sets the creation of the world before our eyes. Are men so sharp-witted as to comprehend all God’s secrets? To know how he disposes the order of nature and how he has, as it were, weighed the winds and waters and other things? It is true, as I have said, that philosophers have well-conceived the reason of things that are seen in this world. But when men come to the creation, it is so wonderful a thing that they must be brought low and reverence the infinite wisdom of God and confess themselves unable to comprehend it.

John Calvin, First Sermon on Job 28:10-28

 

While obviously not addressing it, Calvin here lays his finger on the greatest problem of all evolutionary interpretations of Genesis 1-2. The normal, traditional, historical, interpretation of Genesis 1-2 (and passages like Ex. 20:9-11; Job 38; Ps. 33:6,9; 148; Is. 45:18; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5; Rev. 4:11) is that God made all things in moments of time over the course of six 24-hour days. The more one studies the universe and all that is in it, the more one is amazed at such an assertion; and the more one is utterly confounded at such a God. Which is precisely the point of Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

This is the point that Calvin makes in commenting on Job 28, and it is the point that God himself makes in Job 38. Special creation, literal interpretation, Creation science, young-earth interpretation- whatever term you wish to use- has an exalted view of God for a foundation. Such a method of interpretation lifts man’s eyes up to God only to result in man being brought low in worshipful wonder.

Theistic evolution, whether known as day-age, analogical days, literary framework, gap theory, all do just the opposite. They bring God down to man and tell him, “See, he works just like us. He just makes bigger stuff.”

We are told that Genesis 1-2 is not meant to teach ­how God created the universe, but only that he did. Yeah, because without Genesis 1-2 we would have absolutely NO idea where the world came from.

1Chronicles 16:26  For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Nehemiah 9:6  “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

Job 38:4  “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

Psalm 8:3  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

Psalm 89:11-12  The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.  12  The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.

Psalm 96:5  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Psalm 102:25  Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

Psalm 104:24  O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 115:15  May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 121:2  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124:8  Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 134:3  May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 136:3-9  Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;  4  to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;

Psalm 146:5-6  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,  who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;

Pro 3:19  The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;

Isaiah 37:16  “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.

Isaiah 40:26  Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

Isaiah 40:28  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 42:5  Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:

Isaiah 44:24  Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Jeremiah 10:12  It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Jeremiah 32:17  ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Jeremiah 51:15  “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Zechariah 12:1  The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

Acts 4:24  And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,

Acts 14:15  “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Acts 17:24  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,

Ephesians 3:9  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

Colossians 1:16  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

Hebrews 1:2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Revelation 10:6  and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,

Revelation 14:7  And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Yes, obviously without Genesis 1-2 we would certainly be in the dark about where all things came. No, I think that Genesis 1-2 might want to teach us a little more than the simple fact that God created all things.

Then we are told that such “non-literal” interpretations do believe in a wondrous God. We are told that they look at the billions of years such an evolutionary process took and can be amazed at such wonderful care and patient providence of a God so meticulously guiding processes of change.

So we are at a theological impasse. I believe in a big powerful God who created all things in mere moments with just the word of his mouth. You believe in a wonderfully meticulous artisan God who guides all things. Who is to say which of us has a “better” view of God?

But it is a false dichotomy. Everything they believe about God, I do too: except for the billions of years.

Because “My help comes from the LORD, who patiently guided billions of millennia of death and mutation” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

In some things there is great joy in being a dimwit.

John Calvin on the Big Bang and Evolution

Others have indeed said that the world has not always existed. But so what? They have conjured up the most obtuse and absurd things a human could utter to resist God’s majesty, and they are unable to contemplate his glory, which ought to be evident as it displays itself so plainly before us. That is why they prefer—I am not joking—to say that the world came together by chance and that there were tiny objects tumbling around that the sun used for building the moon and the starts, the earth, the trees, and even men. Could anyone think up a scenario more stupid than that?
So let us pay close attention to this word ‘create’ and be armed against all diabolical illusions, and let us be steadfast in resisting them and steadfast in the knowledge that everything was made from nothing because there is no existence except in God alone, and that we have from him all the we have and are.
(Sermons on Genesis 1-11, trans. Rob Roy McGregor (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 11-12, 13)

I’d say that sums it all up nicely.

Creation: How Does the Bible Interpret Genesis 1?

As we consider the debate between those who hold to believe in some form of evolution and those who believe in the traditional Christian belief in direct creation by God over the course of six 24-hour days; one question that has to be answered is “What does the Bible say about the creation of the universe.” In other words, it does not really matter what the traditional Christian belief is. The central question is, “What does the Bible, in fact, teach?” Or, to put it more humbly, “What does the Bible seem to teach?” As we consider texts that speak directly about the creation of the universe, what is the picture they paint?

Genesis 1 is obviously an important place to start. Several aspects demand our attention. First, there are the repeated “let there be” statements followed by “and there was;” “and it was so;” or “God made.” It is hard to escape the immediacy that these statements imply. Furthermore there are the repeated “there was evening, and there was morning, the first [second/third/fourth etc.] day.” In any other discourse if someone talked like this there would be little chance of being misunderstood. If someone made an appointment and said, “After three evening and mornings, after three days, I will meet you.” It would be, or should be, pretty clear when the meeting was supposed to happen. Granted, there are some biblical contexts in which “day” does not mean a 24-hour time period. But our basic methodology is not to ask what a word can possibly mean from other contexts, but what a word most likely means in its present context. We must investigate how the Bible speaks about creation and its days in other contexts that speak of creation; not how it speaks about “days” in contexts that have nothing to do with creation.

This leads to a consideration of Exodus 20:8-11 a context that speaks of days and creation. The Israelites were commanded to work 6 days of the week and cease from their labor on the seventh day of the week. There is no ambiguity here and all interpreters can only assert that such a command was understood and practiced with a literal understanding of the words. The Israelites worked Sunday through Friday and ceased labors on Saturday. Even now, nearly 4,000 years later, the Jewish people practice this. Verse 11 appears to be equally unambiguous: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The six days of labor for the Israelites match the six days of labor of the Lord. What indication is there in the text that anyone should take verses 8-10 literally, but not verse 11? Indeed, the very basis for a literal interpretation for verses 8-10 is a literal interpretation of verse 11. When the Bible speaks of days and creation, the Bible seems to interpret the event literally.

But what about the act of creation? How does the Bible present the act of creation outside of Genesis? Consider the following texts:

 Psalm 33:6-9  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 148:1-5- Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.

Isaiah 45:12, 18- I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Romans 4:17  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

2Peter 3:5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Again, what is the impression that these verses leave the reader with. It certainly seems that the Bible wants its reader to believe that everything that came into existence came into existence because of the command of the Lord. It appears that the Psalmist, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and author of Hebrews all understood Genesis chapter one in a “literal” manner.

A common method of contrarians is to atomize the Bible. They seek to separate texts off from one another and explain away details through using irrelevant data. It is certainly important to know the lexical meanings a word can have: even the word day.[1] But the safest way of interpretation is to seek what a word means in its own context and in contexts that are closest in content. If you want to know what “day” means in Genesis 1, look for how the Bible speaks about creation.

When the Bible talks about creation it constantly does so in a way that reinforces a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Maybe that is why the church has believed it for 2,000 years.


[1] Basil the Great makes a forceful point: “It is the opposite of day which was called night, and it did not receive its name until after day. Thus were created the evening and the morning, Scripture means the space of a day and a night, but calls them both under the name of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture, Everywhere the measure of time is counted by days, without mention of nights. ‘The days of our years,’ says the Psalmist. ‘Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,’ said Jacob, and elsewhere ‘all the days of my life.’ Thus under the form of history the law is laid down for what is to follow.” (Hexaemeron, Homily 2). Critics debate over what the word “day” means all the while ignoring that God himself define is in the the text: evening and morning.

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 11 The Father and Son share one Glory One Power

Though considered the 11th sermon in the series, this sermon is in some ways a first even though it was second. Confused yet? It appears that this sermon was the second sermon that John Chrysostom preached in Constantinople after his appointment as bishop. After an introduction in which he encourages his hearers and alludes to some elements of his first sermon in Constantinople, the preacher delves into the subject matter rather conversationally (1-7).[1]

Would it be better to base argument on the Old Testament or the New? Chrysostom astutely observed that it would be better to start with the Old Testament. He reasons that using the Old Testament allows him to confront a greater number of heretics (8). In many ways his reasoning still applies today. Non-Christians are not going to be surprised if the New Testament speaks of the glory of Jesus. No one is surprised to find Ipads in an Apple store. But if the glory of Christ can be demonstrated from the Old Testament, it is an even more impressive argument apologetically speaking.

Chrysostom begins at the beginning with the statement “Let us make man in our own image” (12-13). By saying “Let us” the Father demonstrates that the Son is an equal part in the work of creation. The Father has no counselor: Scripture makes this clear. But to show the glory of the Son, Scripture calls him Wonderful Counselor. No man knows the mind of the Lord. No one knows the Father except the Son. The Father creates man in counsel with the Son.

Together they make man in the image of God.

…when God said: “Let us make man,” he did not add: “According to your image which is less than mine.” Nor did he say: “According to my image which is greater than yours. What did God say? “According to our image and likeness.” And by speaking in this way, he showed that there is a single image of the Father and the Son. (23-24)

Chrysostom supports this assertion of equal power and glory with some careful exegesis. He notes to sit on a throne demonstrates power and glory, while to stand at a throne demonstrates the mark of a subordinate waiting for orders (25). So the Old Testament several times makes mention of the myriad of hosts attending the throne.[2] The Son is not one of these countless ministers to the Lord. The Son is seated with the Father, sharing in one glory.

Chrysostom concludes in his customary fashion: a pastoral exhortation. The preacher encourages his hearers not to forsake the assembly. Church[3] is where believers are fed by the word of the Lord (30). The gathering of the church is to be valued above all earthly treasure, there is nothing more valuable (31-33). The mere attendance is an encouragement to believers and a shame to the enemies of the cross (33-37). The habit of gathering serves to encourage other believers to faithfulness. When Christians see other members of the church lax in their attendance it is discouraging to them and might lead them to stop attending as well. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is what the church is: the body of Christ. As its head, Christ is always present when his church gathers. But where is his body?

Therefore, do not let the head to be allowed to set foot in this sacred place without its body, let not the body be seen without its head, but let whole human beings come in, head and body… (39)


[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] Dan. 7:9-10; Is. 6:1-2; 1 Kings 22:19

[3] By “church” I mean the gathered assembly of believers to worship the Lord and edify one another.

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 2

In sermon 2 Chrysostom does not leave any doubt about his feelings toward the Anomoeans. In the previous sermon they were seen as guilty of madness, obstinacy, and folly.  In the very first sentence of the second address they are described as “unbelieving and infidel.” Chrysostom goes on to say they are guilty of dishonoring the faith and disgracing themselves (1)[1]. Yet even with such harsh words, Chrysostom insists he is acting gently. He encourages his hearers to treat the Anomoeans “as you would treat people who have suffered a mental illness and lost their wits” (51). Indeed, the claim to be able to comprehend God is one of insanity.

The preacher rightly identifies one of the consequences of this false belief: the elimination of faith (6). If God can be known completely; known for who he is in his essence; what room is there for faith? For mystery? For wonder? As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the underlying questions in the debate about the knowability of God is, “What kind of God is God?” Again, if God can be comprehended, is he that much of a god?

Unlike the first sermon, Chrysostom does not base this address on a single passage of Scripture. Rather, he uses multiple Scriptures to prove his point. In his first sermon, the preacher demonstrated the incomprehensibility of God by focusing on the Scriptural teachings of his attributes. The Bible consistently says that even God’s individual attributes are incomprehensible, so how much more sure is it that God himself is incomprehensible? In this sermon Chrysostom turns from the attributes of God to his actions. If what God does cannot be understood, how can God himself be understood? He will also turn attention to the nature of man. How can the finite grasp the infinite?

Chrysostom’s first example is the angelic announcement of John’s conception to his father Zechariah (9-16). While the preacher makes a few historically inaccurate statements[2], his treatment of the substance of the Scripture is sound and supportive of his thesis. Zechariah was judged by God because he was not content to take God at his word and wanted to know how God was going to accomplish the sign spoken of. The Anomoeans display the same lack of faith and sense. Not content to trust the word of God, the press on to find out the unknowable.

Before treating even more Scripture, Chrysostom mentions the summary of the Anomoeans’ error (17). He describes it as a destructive force and root of all their evils. The claim of the Anomoeans is: “I know God as God himself knows himself.” It is hard to disagree with the preacher’s statement that the mere repetition of this belief demonstrates its folly (18). If such an affirmation were indeed true, the Anomoeans are rightly called godless. Since it is clearly untrue, they are certainly guilty of “unpardonable madness, a new kind of impiety and godlessness.”

Chrysostom then changes track and concentrates on the nature of man (19-22). The preacher ransacks Scripture to describe man as “dust and ashes, flesh and blood, grass and the flower of grass, a shadow and smoke and vanity…” And just in case anything is left out “…and whatever is weaker and more worthless than these.” These attributes are shown in stark contrast to the nature of God who simply looks at the earth and it trembles.

This leads the preacher into a lengthy meditation on the smallness of man in nature (23-31; 49-50). The heavens have stood gloriously for 5,000 years.[3] The mountains and seas of earth dwarf man. Yet all these are accounted as nothing before their Maker: no wider than his hand; dust on the scales; drops in the palms. Man does not even know his home, but has the audacity to claim full knowledge of its Maker?

Following this, there is argument from the book of Romans (32-39). Chrysostom reminds his hearers that they are but clay in the potter’s hand. As such, they have no foundation from which to question the work of God. In Paul’s hypothetical dialogue, the question was not over God’s nature, but his decisions of judgment and mercy. If man has no way of knowing the mysteries of God’s sovereign decrees, what hope has he of knowing the essence of God himself?

 When Paul did not permit the Romans to meddle in these matters, what about you Anomoeans? Do you not think that you deserve to be seared with ten thousand thunderbolts? You are being meddlesome and pretending to know that blesses essence which manages all the universe. Is this not a mark of ultimate madness?[4]

Chrysostom spends the rest of the sermon bringing up other Pauline statements of ignorance. Devoting most of the discussion to Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” and the surrounding context. If the apostle Paul could only claim informed ignorance, who can dare say he knows God as God knows himself?

As in the first sermon, Chrysostom concludes by exhorting his hearers to be gentle but direct when dealing with those “blasphemers” (55). Yet their interaction must be guarded. Weaker believers in the truth should flee the heretics and have nothing to do with them. Indeed, all the faithful should “avoid any association with them” but instead

 …only pray for them and beseech the loving-kindness of God, who wishes all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, to free them from this deceit and snare of the devil, and to lead them back to the light of knowledge, that is, to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in union with the all holy Spirit, the giver of life, to whom be glory and power now and forever, world without end. Amen.[5]


[1] All parenthetical references refer to chapter divisions in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] i.e. that Zechariah was high priest and was in the holy of holies.

[3] An indication that John Chrysostom understood Genesis 1-11 literally.

[4] §39 pg. 86

[5] §55 pg. 93-94.

The Presbyterian & Reformed on Creation: Slouching toward Evolution

I am neither Presbyterian nor Reformed, but I continue to gain much and have much of my thinking shaped by those who are. But there is a current of thinking swelling up that I hope to fall into. Certain people with a platform continue to dismiss the historical reliability of Genesis 1-11. They continue to question the Church’s traditional, literal, young-earth, interpretation. As this post links too, William B. Evans is another who has laid his cards on the table. Men like Evans make intellectual appeal to science and ancient literature and tell us that our interpretation must take these things into account.

Carlton Wynne eviscerates such thinking:

The need of the hour, it seems to me, whether we are discussing the relative merits of competing creation views, confessional subscription and interpretation, or any other related issue, is to state as clearly and as boldly as we can that the authoritative nexus of meaning–the divinely sanctioned access point for the meaning of a biblical text–lies within the canon of Scripture itself and not in reference to anything extra-biblical, especially apparent similarities with ANE literature. This is an indispensable corollary to Scripture’s authority and sufficiency that we lose to our epistemological and hermeneutical peril. On a related note, however informative ANE literature may be for studying isolated texts, we cannot allow it to norm our reading of Scripture nor determine what Scripture, as a whole, is. The book of Hebrews alone, with the scant authorial and extra-biblical contextual evidence available to us today, ought to check our dependence on background studies for interpreting the Scriptures and lead us to read it, and every other biblical text, ultimately in light of its canonical perspective and place in the unfolding organism of special revelation.

The denial of the plain meaning of Genesis 1-11, the denial of the Church’s historical understanding of Genesis 1-11, is a denial of sola Scriptura. I am not sure how Wickipedia can understand sola Scriptura- “Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting“- and men like Meredith Kline, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman, and William B. Evans cannot. Is the Bible able to stand on its own? Can the Bible offer its own authoritative interpretation? That is the question here.

Evans and his cohorts say Moses was only using faulty ancient tradition. Evans and his cohorts say the Westminster divines were relying on faulty science. I heard the exact same thing in 2009 when I was involved in a reading group of Calvin’s Institutes: passages in which Calvin clearly demonstrated a belief in a young-earth, 6-day creation, were acknowledged with the comment that Calvin was only depending on the science of his day. Apparently Moses was proficient enough to write Scripture, but not truth. Apparently Calvin was discerning enough to see errors in Rome, but not the “science of his day.” The Westminster Assembly was able enough to set creedal standards that guided a denomination for 350 years, but not able to know what they were really talking about.

So the problem with Moses, Calvin, the Westminster Assembly et al. was that they all were held captive to the thinking of their day. None of them were able to penetrate the fog of their own age’s ignorance. They were all slaves to the thought of their contemporaries. Am I the only one on whom this irony is not lost? Evans charges the ancients with communal ignorance as he embraces the wisdom of this world.

Zeitgeist is not all it is cracked up to be.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones Comments on the introductory essays to Genesis in the ESV Study Bible

The introductory articles to Genesis in the ESV Study Bible, “Genesis and History” and “Genesis and Science”, are nothing short of disastrous. That may be putting it too kindly.

We are told that Genesis 1-11 “intended to record history.” We are told that history should not be conceived of as things that actually happened but only events that the author “believes to have happened.” Just in case that is not wishy-washy enough, we are told that the author recorded “real events albeit theologically interpreted.” [Emphasis mine in all quotes.]

In the following quote, D.M. Lloyd-Joes is addressing the Canon Criticism and Biblical Theology movement spearheaded by Brevard Childs, but his words are an apt commentary on the ESV Study Bible’s introductory material on Genesis:

Now we must come back to the Bible. But what they really mean is that we must come back to what they call the ‘message’ of the Old Testament. . . . They reject many of the facts of the Old Testament – they do not accept the early chapters of Genesis as history, they reject the story of the flood, they do not believe the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. They cannot believe such things as these, for their scientific knowledge makes it impossible. But they tell us there is a kind of religious value in it all and that they are willing to take hold of the religious principle and teaching, while they reject the facts as such and regard them as myth. . . . Christian people, in other words, are called upon to adopt an attitude and position that to the world seems utterly ridiculous. To believe these things today is as monstrous to the natural man as it was to the unbelievers of Noah’s day. And yet if we accept the Bible as the Word of God if we believe in this revelation, we must believe that it is an essential part of the teaching. . . . We must not bring natural reason to this; we must accept the Bible as the Word of God, the revelation of God, and live a life of conformity with it. The pure mind, not the scoffing, mocking mind of natural man who rejects the revelation of God, is what we need. God grant that our minds may thus be pure, and utterly free from all modern suggestions and teachings which would have us reject the clear teaching of the revelation of God in His Holy Word. (Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, 171, 174)

The Bible does not need to be excused or explained in words that have no meaning.

It just needs to be believed.