Thursday, July 20, 2017

On the Verbal Inspiration of ALL Scripture

Considering the purpose which the historical parts of the Scriptures were intended to serve, in exhibiting the character and power of God, and his uninterrupted agency in the government of the world, and in pointing to Him who is the end of the law, we have sufficient reason to be convinced, that neither Moses, nor the other sacred historians, nor all the angels in heaven, though acquainted with all the facts, and under the direction, and with the aid, both of superintendence and elevation, were competent to write the historical parts of the Word of God. They possessed neither foresight nor wisdom sufficient for the work. In both respects, every creature is limited. Into these things, the angels, so far from being qualified to select and indite them, “desire to look,” and, from the contemplation of them, derive more knowledge of God than they before possessed, and have their joy even in heaven increased. In those histories, the thoughts and secret motives of men are often unfolded and referred to. Was any one but the Searcher of Hearts competent to this? Could angels have revealed them, unless distinctly made known to them? If it be replied, that in such places the sacred writers enjoyed the inspiration of suggestion, that is, of verbal dictation, we ask, where is the distinction to be found? It is a distinction unknown to the Scriptures. And so far from a plenary inspiration not being necessary in its historical parts, there is not any portion of the sacred volume in which it is more indispensable. But even admitting that verbal inspiration was not in our view essential in those parts of the book of God, is this a reason why we should not receive the testimony of the sacred writers, who nowhere give the most distant hint that they are written under a different kind or degree of inspiration from the rest of it; but who, in the most unqualified manner, assert that full inspiration belongs to the whole of the Scriptures?

The words that are used in the prophetical parts of Scripture, must necessarily have been communicated to the prophets. They did not always comprehend the meaning of their own predictions, into which they “searched diligently.” And in this case, it was impossible that, unless the words had been dictated to them, they could have written intelligibly. Although they had indited the Scriptures, it was necessary to show them “that which is noted in Scripture of truth,” Dan. x. 21. The writings of the prophets constitute a great portion of the Old Testament Scriptures, and God claims it as his sole prerogative, to know the things that are to come. We are therefore certain that they enjoyed verbal inspiration; and, as we have not any where a hint of different kinds of inspiration by which the Scriptures are written, does it not discover the most presumptuous arrogance to assert that there are different kinds? The nature of the mission of the prophets required the full inspiration which they affirm that they possessed. God never intrusted to any man such a work as they had to perform, nor any part of such a work. It was God himself, “who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets.” That work, through which was to be made known “to principalities and powers in heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus,” was not a work to be intrusted to any creature. The prophet Micah, iii. 8, says, “ But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.” It was not the prophets then who spoke, but the Spirit of God who spoke by them.

Of the complete direction necessary for such a service as was committed to him, both of lawgiver and prophet, Moses was aware, when the Lord commanded him to go to Pharaoh, and to lead forth the children of Israel from Egypt. In that work he in treated that he might not be employed. This proved the proper sense he entertained of his own unfitness for it. But it was highly sinful, and evinced great weakness of faith, thus to hesitate, after the Lord had informed him that he would be “with him.” Moses was accordingly reproved for this, but the ground of his plea was admitted; and full inspiration, not only as to the subject of his mission, but as to the very words he was to employ, was promised. In answer to his objection, the Lord said unto him, Exod. iv. 11, 12, “Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou wilt say.” Moses still urged his objection, and the same reply was in substance repeated, both in regard to himself and to Aaron. The full inspiration, then, which was at first promised to Moses in general terms, was, for his encouragement, made known in this particular manner, and the promise was distinctly fulfilled. Accordingly, when, as the lawgiver of Israel, he afterwards addressed the people, he was warranted to preface what he enjoined upon them with, “Thus saith the Lord,” or, “These are the words which the Lord hath commanded, that ye should do them.” In observing all the commandments that Moses commanded them, and in remembering the way by which the Lord had led them, Israel was to learn, that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.” Signs were shown to Moses, and God came unto him in a thick cloud, in order, as he said, “that the people may hear thee when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.” Exod. xix. 9.

If the words of Moses had not been the words of God, had he not been conscious of the full verbal inspiration by which he wrote, would the following language have been suitable to him, or would he have ventured to use it? Deuteronomy, iv. 2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep these commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deut. vi. 6: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” Deut. xi. 18: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your head that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou, walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.” From these passages, we learn that Moses was conscious that all the words which he spoke to the people were the words of God. He knew that it was with him as with Balaam, to whom the Lord said, Numbers, xxii. 35, 38, “Only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak;” and in the language of Balaam, Moses could answer, “The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.”

As “the word of the Lord,” was communicated to Moses, so it also came to Gad, to Nathan, and to the other prophets, who were men of God, and in whose mouths was the word of God. “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth,” 1 Kings, xvii. 24. The manner in which the prophets delivered their messages, proves that they considered the words which they wrote, not as their own words, but dictated to them by God himself. Elijah said to Ahab, “Behold I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity.” On this Mr Scott, in his Commentary, observes, “Elijah was the voice, the Lord was the speaker, whose words these evidently are.” This is a just account of all the messages of the prophets. They introduce them with, “Thus saith the Lord,” and declare them to be “the word of the Lord;” and is it possible that the prophets could have more explicitly affirmed, that the words which they uttered were communicated to them, and that they were only the instruments of this communication to those whom they addressed? In the place where we read, “Now these be the last words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel,” David says, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue,” 2 Samuel, xxiii. 2. In like manner it is said, “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord,” “To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah,” “That the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished,” 2 Chron. xxxvi. 12, 21, 22. “Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in the prophets,” Nehemiah, ix. 30. Isaiah commences his prophecies by summoning the heavens and the earth to hear, “for the Lord hath spoken," Isa. i. 2. In the same manner, Jeremiah writes, “The words of Jeremiah, to whom the word of the Lord came.” “Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said unto me, Behold I have put my words in thy mouth.” “I will make my words in thy mouth fire,” Jeremiah, i. 1, 2, 9; v. 14. “Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book." Jeremiah, xxx. 2. Again, in the prophecies of Ezekiel, “Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak my words unto them.” “Moreover, he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee, receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears, and go get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel, iii. 4, 10, 11. Hosea says, “The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea ;” “The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea.” i. 1, 2. It is in similar language that the other prophets generally introduce their predictions, which are every where interspersed with “thus saith the Lord.”

All, then, that was spoken by the prophets in these several recorded passages, was spoken in the name of the Lord. When false prophets appeared, it was necessary for them to profess to speak in the name of the Lord, and to steal his words from their neighbour. “I have heard what the prophets say, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith,” Jeremiah, xxiii. 25–31. They were the words of God, therefore, which the false prophets stole from the true prophets of Jehovah.

The uniform language of Jesus Christ, and his Apostles, respecting the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, proves that, without exception, they are “the Word of God.” On what principle but that of the verbal inspiration of Scripture, can we explain our Lord's words, John, x. 35, “The Scripture cannot be broken?" Here the argument is founded on one word, “gods,” which without verbal inspiration might not have been used; and if used improperly, might have led to idolatry. In proof of the folly of their charge of blasphemy, he refers the Jews to where it is written in their law, “I said ye are gods.” The reply to this argument was obvious:— The Psalmist, they might answer, uses the word in a sense that is not proper. But Jesus precluded this observation, by affirming, that “the Scripture can not be broken,” that is, not a word of it can be altered, because it is the Word of Him with whom there is no variableness. Could this be said if the choice of words had been left to men? Here, then, we find our Lord laying down a principle, which for ever sets the question at rest. The Apostles, in like manner, reason from the use of a particular word. Of this we have examples, 1 Corinthians, xv. 27, 28, and Hebrews, ii. 8, where the interpretation of the pass ages referred to depends on the word “all.” Again, Galatians, iii. 16, a most important conclusion is drawn from the use of the word, “seed,” in the singular, and not in the plural number. A similar in stance occurs, Hebrews, xii. 27, in the expression “once more,” quoted from the prophet Haggai.

When the Pharisees came to Jesus, and desired an answer respecting divorce, he replied, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning, made them a male and female; and said, for this cause,” &c. Thus, what is said in the history by Moses, at the formation of Eve, is appealed to as spoken by God, and as having the authority of a law. But nothing that Moses could say, unless dictated by God, could have the force of a law, to be quoted by our Lord. What, therefore, was then uttered by man, was the Word of God himself.

The Lord Jesus Christ constantly refers to the whole of the Old Testament, as being, in the most minute particulars, of infallible authority. He speaks of the necessity of every word of the Law and the Prophets being fulfilled. “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.”—“It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fail.”—But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?—That all things which are written may be fulfilled.—That the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Law.—That the Scripture might be fulfilled—“The Scriptures,” he says, “must be fulfilled.” In numerous passages the Lord refers to what is “written” in the Scriptures, as of equal authority with his own declarations; and, therefore, the words which they contain must be the “words of God.”

The Apostles use similar language in their many references to the Old Testament Scriptures, which they quote as of decisive authority, and speak of them in the same way as they do of their own writings, “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the Apostles of the Lord and Saviour,” 2 Peter, iii. 2. Paul says to Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus,” 2 Tim. iii. 15. In this way he proves the importance of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the connexion between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations. The Apostles call the Scriptures “the oracles of God,” Rom. iii. 2. What God says is ascribed by them to the Scriptures: “The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee.”—“For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” “What saith the Scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son.” So much is the Word of God identified with himself, that the Scripture is represented as possessing and exercising the peculiar prerogatives of God: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen;”—“The Scripture hath concluded all under sin.”

From the following passages, among others that might be adduced, we learn the true nature of that inspiration which is ascribed to the Old Testament by the writers of the New: Mat. i. 22, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet.” Mat. ii. 15, “And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Mat. xxii. 43. “ He saith unto them, How then doth David, in spirit, call him Lord?” Mark, xii. 36, “For David himself said by the Holy Ghost.” Luke, i. 70, “As he spake by the mouth of his Holy Prophets, which have been since the world began.” Acts, i. 16, “Which the Holy Ghost spoke by the mouth of David.” Acts, xiii. 35, “He (God) saith also in another Psalm, Thou shalt not suffer. thine Holy One to see corruption.” These words are here quoted as the words of God, although addressed to himself. In the parallel passage, Acts, ii. 31, the same words are ascribed to David, by whose “mouth” therefore God spoke. Acts, xxviii. 25, “And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word: Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet, unto our fathers.” Rom. i. 2, “Which He had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” Rom. ix. 25, “ As He saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her Beloved, which was not beloved.” I Cor. vi. 16, 17, “What I know ye not, that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh.” Here the words of Moses are referred to by the Apostle, as they had been by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as the words of God. Eph. iv. 8, “Wherefore He saith, when he ascended up on high.” Heb. i. 7, 8, “And of the angels He saith;”—“But unto the Son He saith.” In these passages what was said by the Psalmist, is quoted as said by God. Heb. iii. 7, “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice.” Heb. x. 15, “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us, for after that He had said.” 1 Peter, i. 11, “Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” And how was it possible that the Prophets could find language in which to express intelligibly the mysteries of God, which they so imperfectly comprehended, unless the Spirit of Christ which was in them had dictated every word they wrote? 2 Peter, i. 20, 21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” In this passage the Apostle Peter, having, in the preceding verse, directed the attention of those to whom he wrote, to the “sure word of prophecy,” has given an equally comprehensive and explicit attestation to the verbal inspiration of all the prophetic testimony, which comprises so large a portion of the Old Testament, as the Apostle Paul has given, 2 Tim. iii.16, to that of the whole of the Scriptures, Acts, iv. 25, “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the Heathen rage?” Heb. i. 1, “God, who at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” The words, then, spoken by the Prophets, were as much the words of God, as the words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Robert Haldane, The Books of the Old and New Testaments Proved to be Canonical, and Their Verbal Inspiration Maintained and Defended

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

He Was Numbered With The Transgressors

I may here notice another saying of Christ...containing ... a deep significance, which can only be apprehended when we read it in connection with Christ's suretyship or representative character. He said, before leaving the upper room, where He celebrated the last supper: 'This that is written of Me must yet be accomplished in Me, And He was numbered among transgressors' (Luke xxil 37). Now, are we to regard this remark of Christ, which embodies a quotation from Isaiah's prophecy, as containing nothing more than a description of the opinion entertained by men respecting Him? Does it mean that He was treated as if He had been a transgressor, or in a way which might have led a hasty observer or an undiscerning spectator to conclude that He was, or might be, a transgressor? No; by no means. Our Lord plainly takes the words in all their fulness of significance. He uses them not as denoting a mere as if, but as descriptive of the real sentence due to transgressors, and of the doom or punishment consequent on that righteous sentence carried out against transgressors. That is the meaning of the words; and the rationale is supplied by the fact, that the expression occurs in a chapter which, beyond doubt, predicts the vicarious sufferings of Christ, and repeats again and again the great thought, 'that He bore the sins of many' (Isa. liii.). No candid interpreter, interpreting simply by language, can have any other impression than this, that the righteous servant there named delivers many by a vicarious atonement. And Jesus, by quoting this statement as awaiting its accomplishment in Himself, manifestly applies that whole chapter of Isaiah to His own sufferings and death. We can interpret our Lord's words only in the sense that He was to be judicially numbered among transgressors, that is, numbered agreeably to the execution of a judicial sentence with transgressors. When Mark applies the same quotation to the position assigned to Christ between the two thieves at His crucifixion (Mark xv. 28), he brings out its meaning in all its compass of allusion. But He by no means excludes the preparatory stages of its accomplishment, or that which preceded the fact adduced as its fulfilment. The words, 'He was numbered with transgressors,' were accomplished not only when He shared a common lot with the malefactors, but also in all that preceded the erection of the three crosses on Golgotha, and, in fact, from the moment of His delivery into the hands of men. It was thus a judicial numbering of Christ with transgressors.

(1) The ARREST of Christ in the garden as if He were a criminal was the first step to the accomplishment of the prediction ('He was numbered among the transgressors'). He was there treated as a seditious man and as a malefactor in the room of us sinners, who had forfeited our freedom. We are evil-doers in so far as our relation to the city of God is concerned, that is, men who had renounced their dependence and allegiance, and who acted in all things as disobedient subjects. That arrest by the hand of justice was a real transaction at the hand of God, — was, in fact, the arrest of the guilty criminal in the person of the representative. And if the veil had been drawn aside, it would have been seen that all this was in the room of the sinner who should have been so apprehended. This is a real, not a symbolical transaction. And if the representative is seized, they whom He represented must go free. There is such a meaning in our Lord's words: 'Let these go free' (John xviii. 8). Our Lord deeply felt, indeed, the rude arrest in His tender human feelings when He said: 'Are ye come out as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take Me?' (Mark xiv. 48.) But He well knew, that though personally sinless, He was there in the room of sinners, and that the officers, acting as the ministers of God, seized Him as the sinner should have been seized. But, at the same time, to show how little human power could have prevailed against Him, unless He had given His consent, it was deemed fitting to let out some display or outbeaming of His majesty; and the utterance of the simple words, 'I am He,' prostrated the officers and band to the ground (John xviii. 6). Though innocent of the charge of sedition and blasphemy on which He was ostensibly arrested, His people were not; and hence He must needs be seized and bound in His capacity as the sinner's representative. When we see the Son of God bound in chains, what does the transaction exhibit but the captivity consequent upon our sin, which He had made His own, or the chain binding the sinner to the judgment of the great day? His arrest is His people's liberty; His bonds are their release.

(2) Not to mention all the intermediate points in the successive steps of Christ's sufferings, we shall notice, next in order, His TRIAL AND SENTENCE BEFORE THE ECCLESIASTICAL COURT, on the charge of blasphemy. In this whole transaction, when sentence of death was pronounced by the high priest, we have but the visible part of the great assize. He must, as the substitute of sinners, be found innocent, and yet made guilty, — be proved personally spotless, and yet be treated by the sentence given as one who was to be regarded as officially worthy of condemnation. And this anomalous trial brings together at all points these two things. The sentence by which He was condemned only indicated or announced the sentence passed by God upon the sin-bearer. The accusation on which He was tried in the Sanhedrim, AS brought against us, is not false. Moses accuses us, that the revelation given in the name of God has been disregarded and despised, and that the divine perfections have only been blasphemed by us. The accusation is so true and so undeniable, that there is no need of witnesses. The representative of sinners in His official capacity is silent, and puts in no plea in arrest of judgment. But His personal innocence must be apparent. And it was only His own true declaration of what He was as a divine person which brought down on Him, in lack of other evidence, the sentence that He was worthy of death. He thus appears personally innocent, but representatively guilty; and unless we carry with us these two ideas as the key to the whole trial, the narrative will be inexplicable, and the fact in the moral government of God an impenetrable mystery. That earthly court, dealing with the charge of blasphemy, or dishonour to the name and works and word of God, sentenced the sinner's surety, and pronounced upon our sin, much in the same way as the shadow on the sun-dial registers the movements taking place in another sphere. He was personally innocent; but as He stood there for us, He was truly chargeable with all the accusation which was then adduced. His silence at that tribunal opens our mouth to cry, 'Abba, Father.'

(3) The MOCKERY, the shame, and the indignity to which He was subjected, constituted the next part of His vicarious suffering. They were undeserved by that meek and patient sufferer, but well merited by us, in whose name He appeared, and whose person He bore. The wicked 'shall rise to shame and everlasting contempt' (Dan. xii. 2). And from that merited scorn due to sinners from all holy beings the sinless substitute was not exempt. He hid not His face from shame and from spitting.

(4) Omitting the desertion of His disciples and the denial of Peter, we advance to the next public act in connection with Christ's sufferings, — the trial and condemnation at the bar OF THE ROMAN GOVERNOR, ON A CHARGE OF REBELLION OR SEDITION. This is very much of the same kind with the trial before the high priest upon a charge of blasphemy, and is to be considered in a similar light. The course of our Lord's sufferings may with advantage be traced, as we have already done, on the sinner's history, and read off from it. The surety encountered, at each successive step, what should have taken place in the history of man's relation to God. For the very same relations, and not merely analogous ones, were occupied by the surety when He was tried and sentenced and condemned. It is note worthy that at Pilate's bar Jesus was silent (Matt. xxvii. 14). The explanation is to be found in the fact, that though personally sinless, He really, and not nominally, occupied the sinner's place. Hence the silence. He puts in no plea in arrest of judgment or in self- vindication. He was there not in His personal capacity, but in His official capacity, as the representative of sinners and the voluntary sin-bearer. He has nothing to adduce in extenuation or in exculpation, since every mouth must be stopped, and the whole world become guilty before God. He accepts the charge of guilt; and as the doom is the sinner's, not His, He submits to it as merited. When Pilate wished to deliver Him, if Jesus would only be aiding in His own defence, the Lord continued silent before His accusers, amid all the accusations adduced against Him. He was then making a real appearance at the bar of God, of which that earthly court of justice was but the foreground. He was personally innocent, and officially guilty. Hence His silence.

We must notice this anomalous trial specially in connection with the fact that He was sentenced as guilty while pronounced innocent. The examination of the judge was meant to serve the important purpose of manifesting the innocence of Jesus. And the startling fact, that a judge pronounces Him innocent, but condemns Him as guilty, must be historically brought about in the adorable providence of God, in order to exhibit the personal and the official in the Lord Jesus; or, in other words, to discover the sinless one and the sin-bearer. No man could more emphatically testify to Christ's innocence than Pilate. He had examined the accusations; he had heard all that the witnesses could adduce against Him, and was perfectly informed of everything in the case; and five times he declared that he found no fault in Him. This was done, too, in public, before His accusers, and in the presence of the vast multitude. And, not content with that public announcement, he, when he yielded at last to the clamour for the crucifixion, confirmed his judicial testimony to His innocence by the significant symbolical action of washing his hands, and declaring that he was innocent of the blood of that just man. It was fitting that all this should be done by a judge, and from the judicial bench, that Christ's innocence might be made apparent; and next, that the inference might be drawn that the doom of the guilty was transferred to Him as standing in a vicarious position. Thus He was personally innocent, though He was by no means to be accounted so in that official and vicarious capacity, in which alone He stood at Pilate's bar. There is no way of elucidating that anomalous trial, which went through the due forms of law, unless we hold that He was truly innocent, but officially guilty.

(5) The last step of Christ's sufferings, the crucifixion, immediately followed the sentence of Pilate. The intermediate details, such as the mockery, scorn, and indignity inflicted on Him in many forms, we shall omit; though these, too, were vicarious, as appears from the words, 'by His stripes we are healed.' We shall omit, too, the Lord's words to the daughters of Jerusalem when they wept for Him tears of sympathy, as He toiled along the public way under the burden of the cross, — tears which, He shows them, were out of place as shed for Him. We shall limit ourselves to the crucifixion itself and to the closing acts of His life.

The crucifixion, a Roman mode of punishment, was not only peculiarly painful and ignominious in the sight of man, but was meant to indicate the amazing fact, that Christ, by being suspended on the tree, was made a curse. The words of Moses quoted by Paul are express to this effect (Gal. iii. 13). The Lord Jesus was thus, personally considered, the beloved Son and the sinless man, but, officially considered, the curse-bearer in the room of sinners. The Son of God, truly bearing sin with a view to condemn it in the flesh, was exhibited as made a curse by the very fact of enduring this punishment. We have thus to draw the same distinction, as we already mentioned, between Christ considered personally and Christ considered officially. If there ever was a spot where sin could be laid without entailing the inevitable doom of a righteous condemnation, it was here when it was borne on the sinless humanity of the incarnate Son; and we see that even there sin was condemned in the flesh and righteously visited. The surety was tried, sentenced, condemned, and made a curse for us, that we might not come into condemnation.

During those awful hours on the cross when made a curse for us, the Lord Jesus sustained that desertion, which was just the endurance of the death of the soul, when sin separates between God and the soul, and when God hides His face from us. To this it is not necessary to refer further, after what was said in the previous section. The actions of the Lord Jesus when He hung on the cross, were in the highest degree momentous and significant. These expiatory sufferings, 'an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour' (Eph. v. 2), were so efficacious, that they were made the ground of two signal displays of grace, even while He was on the cross. The one of these was the salvation of the dying malefactor, who was made an eminent trophy of His redemption work, and was enabled to recognise Him as a sufficient Saviour, even in that deep abasement and humiliation. The other was the prayer for forgiveness to His crucifiers, whether we regard the scope of the prayer as comprehending the individuals then before Him, or as extending to the preservation of the Jewish nation.

After these hours of inconceivable sorrow and desertion on the cross, under a darkness which just resembled the blackness awaiting the lost, the Lord felt that His work was accomplished; and He gave utterance to that saying which has brought light, rest, and liberty to so many minds: 'It is finished' (John xix. 30). He meant that the expiatory sufferings had reached their climax, and were sufficient, that the guilt of mankind was fully atoned for, and that there was nothing left undone. He felt that God and man were reunited and reconciled; and now He had but to resign His spirit into His Father's hands. As priest and victim, He had only now one act to perform, — to lay down His life by the priestly act of commending His spirit to God. Nature was not exhausted, nor did life ooze away; for He still had power over His own life, and no man took it from Him (John x. 18). After having done all and endured all, He deemed it fitting, without more delay, to resign His life or spirit into His Father's hand as an acceptable sacrifice. It was the High Priest offering up His soul to God that said, 'Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.' And He uttered it with a loud voice, to show that strength still remained in Him, and that, by His own authority, He released the spirit from the lacerated and wounded body.

The curse was, 'Thou shalt die;' and now it was exhausted, and sin annihilated. Now heaven and earth were reunited; God and man were at one again.
George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Review of He Shall Have Dominion

In reviewing this book one feels almost compelled to interact with Gray North's foreword, because he makes some rather extreme claims in it regarding the book itself, and the position it espouses. For this reason, many of my comments, while pertaining to the book, will be written with North's foreword in mind. Having recently read North's “Crossed Fingers,” I found the foreword to be incredibly weak, and I don't use that word lightly. In "Crossed Fingers," he speaks harshly against seminaries with accreditation, and mocks the PhD as an invention of liberal German education (He has one). Then, in this volume, after sweeping some Premillennialist opponent aside, he puts a snarky comment in the footnotes implying that the man is small potatoes and shouldn't be taken seriously because he teaches as some "obscure" seminary that is even accredited. He imputes beliefs to Premillennial and Amillennial folk that are simply not true. For a guy who talks about God's Law so much, he plays fast and loose with the 9th Commandment. He lets you know that Amillennialism has been the standard position of the Church for most of her existence. But he's fine with glibly kicking it to the curb because no one, in his estimation, has written a book on the scale of Gentry's. I fail to see how that is an argument at all. But the whole force of his argument seems to be that Gentry's book can make postmillennialism happen even if it isn't true because no one else could ever write a better eschatology book. I would have liked to see Gentry say something like "The views expressed in the foreword do not necessarily represent the views of the author."

If one were to believe Gary North's foreword, this should be the mother of all eschatology books. It isn't. And I hate to break it to Mr. North, but neither I nor anyone else is on the hook to write a point by point refutation of Mr. Gentry's book to make that assertion. There are good, standard works on Amillennialism, for instance (Hendrickson, Riddlebarger, Cox), which neither North nor Gentry has taken on point by point, which they nonetheless reject. That knife cuts both ways.

Moreover, it is hard to take North's high praise of the books references (and the sheer volume of them) as an indication of the greatness of the book, when many of the works referenced are his own. North claims that Gentry will drown his critics in footnotes. At least 80% of the boasted footnotes do not pertain directly to the defense of Postmillennialism. They are just references to various authors – not directly contributing to the building of Gentry's case. And several of the authors he does cite to bolster his position are authors of dubious quality. These are primarily his fellow theonomist Reconstructionists. If he wants to prove his point to those outside this small circle, he needs to demonstrate a consensus outside this circle. Hanko has rightly noted the vaunted support is illusory. Either the supposed references don’t really address the subject, or they are appealed to anachronistically, or they appeared to be pulled out of thin air. For example, in Postmillennialist literature, one will find several references to Charles Hodge. The fact is however that the one passage of Hodge that is marshalled in as proof, is the single line addressing the issue in his entire 3-volume Systematic Theology. Most of the citations provided in the book are not the earth-shattering proof North bragged about in his foreword. He hasn’t drown anyone in footnotes; he’s only cumbered up the ground.

And frankly, I wish all authors would stop appealing to Rushdoony. His home church in Armenia, pastored by his father, practiced animal sacrifices. The blood of the slaughtered animals was sprinkled on the church doors as a "thank offering". He never condemned this practice and always spoke highly of the Armenian Church and frequently lamented the fact (in his view) that the modern reformed churches did not go as far as the churches of Armenia. Rushdoony repeatedly asserted that that there is no valid reason to discontinue the rites of purification and he linked this with thank offerings. He tried to argue for the continuance of the Levitical priesthood into the New Testament church. So when the theonomist reconstructionists get accused of hauling Jewish ceremonial law into the New Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace, it is a fair accusation – unless, of course they repudiate Rushdoony – which, let’s face it, ain't gonna happen.

Secondly, I find myself over 200 pages into the book (including the foreword and preface) still being told that there is an imminent powerhouse exegetical case for Postmillennialism just around the corner. And when the actual exegesis begins, much of it (most, in fact), falls squarely within the purview of Amillennialism, as well.

I hardly view myself as a cutting-edge thinker, so I can't imagine that my fundamental objections to are unique to me. So it is more than a little disappointing to not find them addressed in what is touted as the end-all text book on the subject. To demonstrate what I mean, I will list my objections, and briefly detail how (or if) they are dealt with in this book.

My fundamental objections to Postmillennialism:

  1. Optimism vs. Pessimism argument. I fail to find this argument even remotely compelling. Gentry, like all modern Postmillennialists, promote their position by appealing to its optimistic view of the future – in opposition to the “negative” view held by Premillennialists and Amillennialists. My question (which I found completely absent) is this: Who says that one’s eschatology is to be assessed on the basis of pessimism or optimism? Is or is not the Second Advent of Christ the “blessed hope” of the Church? Is or is not the Second Advent of Christ therefore a most optimistic hope? So, how in the name of the 9th Commandment, is it fair to accuse men who believe in the glorious Second Advent of being pessimists? And how does Postmillennialism not fall under the condemnation of the Second Helvetic Confession, which reads: “We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth”? This condemnation clearly applied to Postmillennialism, not Premillennialism, because the Jewish fable being rejected is a golden age before the Day of Judgment. So throwing out the opposing views merely on account of a supposed “pessimism” is no argument at all. It is logically fallacious. Every time Gentry interacts with Amillennialism, rather than serious address the theological objections that are raised by acknowledging the effects of Original Sin, and the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, he glibly shoves them aside as “pessimistic.” There is a third word that is missing from his optimism/pessimism debate: realism. Who says that his opponents' views are pessimistic? This is begging the question. This arbitrary classification keeps his opponents' view held in a pejorative light, regardless of the validity of any of their objections.
  2. Entangling of Church and State. Gentry repeatedly denies this connection, but every single book he cites in his favor advocates this very thing. And because his particular notion is built on Abraham Kuyper's notion of “common grace,” the way in which the Church is to influence society always terminates in compromise and worldliness. It denies, in action if not on paper, that God has placed enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. There is no conceivable way that the church can influence society along Postmillennialist terms without joint efforts between elect and reprobate. Any honest Christian will acknowledge that whenever compromise occurs between the Church and the world, it is always on the world's terms. It was the PCUSA's incipient Postmillennialism that facilitated her apostasy into Liberalism. Norh acknolwedges as much in Crossed Fingers. Gentry, with absolutely no explanation or defense for the switch, starts using the world “culture” where he had once spoken of dominion. This is why the appeal to common grace bothers me so much. Whose culture is the Church called to promote? That is never defined. Presumably what is meant by the word is whatever is pleasing and aesthetic in any culture influenced by a Christian worldview. And it is precisely here that Gentry and company would fall afoul of their Postmillennialist predecessors. Part of the Postmillennialist “cultural mandate” always includes Christian involvement (and supposed superiority – leading to eventual control of) in whatever fields of interest society's “culture” develops – be it sports, the arts, and entertainment. Advocating Christian involvement in any of these fields prior to the early 20th century would've gotten you excommunicated. It's not simply that this is compromise and worldliness, but it is a fascination with the things of this world that makes little sense. Am I to believe that in the eternal state, I have no better pastime to look forward to than the music of Beethoven or Mozart? This cheapens the glory of the eternal state. And it does so precisely by promoting secular society's culture. It acts as if, divorced from God, humans are capable, and in fact do, create a culture that deserves to be imported into the Eternal state. Gentry makes a brief reference to the “salt” principle, but it seems like quite an exegetical stretch to say that the Church acts like salt by preserving the world's culture. 17th and 18th century Postmillennialists might not have advocated such worldliness, but it lies at the base of the system because it ignores the reality of total depravity and the enmity God has placed between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. I’m not accusing Gentry of promoting this particular view of “culture,” but he has left the term entirely undefined – and this view of human culture is precisely what is held by most advocates of “common grace.”
  3. Confusing the person and work of Christ with His mystical body. This seems to me to be the most obvious objection. I defy anyone to show me in Scripture one single benefit the Church enjoys that does not flow to her from Christ, her Federal Head. And yet, if the Postmillennial position be true, it looks suspiciously as if Christ receives victory over His enemies through the Church, rather than her enjoying said victory through His work. I see no way of escaping this dilemma. In His office as King, Christ rules over all creation and He subjects His enemies to Himself. If I were to claim that it is our responsibility as Christians to work out a perfect sanctification in this life and then present this to Christ as a ground for His claim of sanctifying His people through the work of the Holy Spirit, you'd say I was a Pelagian – and you'd be right. What am I to make of an eschatology that posits the same thing in reference to the cosmos? And this object is not so much as even noticed in the book. The references to Psalm 8 substantiate my claim. Hebrews clearly teaches that Psalm 8 refers specifically to Christ. Christ is the “son of man” in Psalm 8 under whose feet all things will be subjected. Yet, even after noting the Hebrews citation of Psalm 8, Gentry continues on as if the “son of man” is the Church putting all things under it own feet.
  4. The newness of the position. Novelty is never a good thing theologically. Gentry fails to convince me of the antiquity of his position. He make a few references to respected Patristic sources, but freely acknowledges that not one of these men would recognize, or accept, Postmillennialism as a system. Sorry, you can’t claim in your favor people who wouldn’t even recognize the position. He marshals in Augustine, who every scholar I have ever read on the subject affirms is primarily responsible for the first clear and developed exposition of the Amillennial position. He notes that certain comments in Augustine’s writings are capable of even a Premillennial construction. If this is true, then let’s call it a draw and say that no one gets to claim Augustine for their eschatological system. He then leaps over a 1000 years (an actual millennium) to Daniel Whitby (1703). Mr. Gentry hastens to inform us that the Postmillennial system predates Whitby, and as evidence he submits the work A Revelation of the Revelation, by Thomas Brightman (1562- 1607). Even granting this to be the case, this is a virtual admission that Postmillennialism as a recognizable theological position did not exist prior to the 17th century. Let’s assume for a moment that all Christians are myopic, viewing the struggle between the Church and the world through the lens of their own condition. If this be true, Christian for most of Church history would not be inclined to hold to the Postmillennial position. Amillennialism makes sense. Even Premillennialism makes sense, in this light, assuming it carries water. But there has only been one brief period in Church history where the societal milieu would lead anyone to view the struggle between the Church and the world in Postmillennial terms: the 17th century – which is exactly when we first find the system developed and promoted. This may not be conclusive, but it certainly must count for something.
  5. It only works if everyone believes it. This is more of an observation than an objection. But it surfaces everywhere. North's foreword leaves the impression that the book is so compelling that it will literally make Postmillennialism be true simply by sheer force of argumentation. One of the most common laments of the book, stated or implied, is that the Church has not achieved her destined Millennial kingdom because not everyone is on board. What does one make of such a feeling? It seems to fly right in the face of the ostensible Reformed commitment to Divine sovereignty. If God is sovereign, and He plans (wills) to convert the whole world to Christianity, why does the dissent in anyone's eschatology matter? What fulfilment of any Scripture prophecy ever hinged on the belief and/or acceptance of it by anyone – in or out of Israel? Scripture tells us that scoffers will say, “Where is the promise of his coming,” and yet this will not hinder Christ's return to judge the world in righteousness.
  6. Scripture repeatedly speaks of the time prior to Christ's return as mirroring the days of Noah and Lot. These were hardly characterized by mass conversion to faith in the God of Israel. And, just as an aside, had there been more righteous men in Sodom besides Lot, would Lot's “saltiness” have been intended to save Sodom's culture? To ask the question is to answer it. This raises the whole question of history. This objection Gentry does take on, although he treats is as a practical objection, rather than a theological one – which is surely is. The objection he responds to take the form of questioning how one can hold such an ameliorating view of the future in the same century that witnessed World War I and II? His response is that, all things considered, this is a rather small sample, and that the world present an overall more positive picture if your sample is bigger than the 20th century. Granted, there is something to be said for this reply, but the problem isn't stated accurately. It's not just that the 20th century witnessed so much war and bloodshed. This is the legacy of mankind since Cain murdered Abel. That is not a small sample. Plus, does the history of Israel's apostasy, the apostasy of Papal Rome, and the apostasy of mainline Protestantism not count for anything? Does this not verify the fact that Christ's church is always a remnant, a “little flock,” who are among the few that find and walk the narrow path that leads to salvation?

I realize it sounds insane to say this of a book clocking in at over 600 pages, but it is strikingly superficial. I felt like I was reading clickbait: “You won't believe what happens next” - only to find the case presented skims along the surface of the doctrine being presented and the supposed Scriptural support for it. When it takes you 8 chapters, plus a foreword and preface to set up your exegesis, it's hard to expect anything compelling. And the 8 chapters don't really bear directly on the Postmillennial position, per se. So one feels cheated when Gentry marches into Chapter 9 triumphantly as if he's decimated every semblance of an objection. And the exegesis comes in rather sideways most of the time as well. Instead of going to the prophecies of Isaiah and arguing that the triumph of the Messiah's kingdom is most faithfully understood as a golden age on the earth prior to Christ's return, he argues from the “be fruitful and multiply” command in Genesis. As I stated already, this completely overlooks the Fall. And it doesn't do anything for his case (he thinks it does) to show how man, after the Fall, immediately took to dominating nature. The command was given to man prior to the Fall, and ignoring the Fall to assert that the command is still equally binding is poor exegesis. It neglects to explain why such dominion-behavior was good when fallen sinners did it, yet it is actually only the domain of the Church. That is no small oversight. Prior to the mission of the Twelve Spies, Israel was commanded to enter the Promised Land and conquer it. The morning after God sentenced Israel to wander 40 years in the wilderness, some of the men of war arose to enter Canaan to, as they put it, to “go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” Yet, this apparent act of obedience to the dominion mandate, was now sinful. In fact, the men who did attempt this conquering of Canaan were defeated in battle precisely for trying to do now what God had commanded them to do before their sin had entered the picture. Gentry doesn't come within a country mile of this objection. And based on the Scripture precedent of Numbers 14, one would be inclined to think that defeat is exactly what Postmillennialism should expect.

Starting at Chapter 10, Gentry launches into the exegesis proper, but by this point he has worn the reader’s patience with 200+ pages of “any moment now, I’m gonna blow everyone out of the water.” And even granting that his exegesis is fair, it suffers from two defects that weaken his use for his case. A). Much of what he says doesn’t represent Postmillennialism as a whole, and some of it could be agreed upon by both Premillennialists and Amillennialists. That hardly can be counted in his favor. B). All of his exegetical work is based on the Dominion Mandate which he inexplicably bait-and-switched into a “cultural mandate” within minutes of introducing the subject. It doesn’t matter how formidable his edifice appears when it is built on the rotten foundation of cultural compromise as a way of Christianizing the world.

There is an unbalanced, I almost said inconsistent, presentation of the opposing views’ hermeneutical principles. In the foreword, North castigates Amillennialists for a “spiritualizing” hermeneutic – the same slander hurled by Dispensationalists at both Amillennialists and Postmillennialists. Then, in the body of the work, Gentry rides herd on the Dispensationalists for their “literal” method of interpretation. Let’s be honest, Dispensationalists treat Scripture in many ways, but most of them are not literal. I have never understood people who can affirm that the chariots in Nahum 2:4 were modern-day automobiles, and the locusts of Revelation were Bell-Huey helicopters, have any room to boast of a literal hermeneutic. What surprises me, is that after criticizing Dispensationalists for their silly literalism with regard to prophecy, the Postmillennial position advocated by Gentry (and North) understands the same prophecies in a literal sense as well – the only difference being whether the “golden age” takes place before or after the Second Advent of Christ. It hardly seems consistent to squawk about one opponent advocating a “literal” hermeneutic when you’re going to use it yourself. Or to squawk about another opponent’s advocating a “spiritualizing” hermeneutic, when you periodical have recourse to the same approach. In fact, Chapter 15 ends with what is essentially a concession of this point. Mr. Gentry spends several pages treating the New Heavens and the New Earth in quite a literal fashion, and ends the segment by saying Premillennialists and Postmillennialists have no problem interpreting the New Heaven and Earth because both interpret it as a literal golden age upon the earth. Only Amillennialists, he says, have exegetical problems, because the relevant passages lend themselves more easily to a literal interpretation.

Chapter 16 is where I take the biggest issue. He spends a full twenty-eight pages on the “characters” of eschatology (the Beast, the Antichrist, etc). Never once does he even so much as mention the Papacy. I know that it is controversial today to say that. But controversy aside, there is no other doctrine about which ALL the Reformers were monolithically agreed than that the Papacy is the Antichrist! Zwingli, Luther, Bucer, Calvin, Martyr, Beza, Musculus, Cranmer, Melanchthon, (I could do this all day) to a man held that the Antichrist is the Papacy and that the Beast is his Romish church. And this includes both the 17th and 18th century predecessors of his theonomic version of Postmillennialism: the Pilgrim Fathers! Until the early 20th century, nothing would get you suspected more quickly of apostasy than expressing doubts regarding the identity of the Antichrist and the Papacy. The various streams of Reformation thought may have differed on their understanding of the Sacraments, on the nature of the Church, on the relation of the Church to the State, but there was zero difference on their view that the Papacy was the Antichrist! The Reformers, to a man, provided long, detailed exegetical explanations to prove the identity. They weren’t simply engaging in rhetorical retaliation against their persecutors, and it is libel to suggest it. Anyone is free to deny the identity if they please, but you cannot offer your position as authoritative without explaining point by point why the Reformers were wrong. After all, this is what North says you must do if you disagree with this book (hence the inordinate length of this review!)

This is actually a monumental error in his hermeneutic. By making the Beast and Antichrist stand for Nero and Pagan Rome, he ignores a central motif of Scripture: covenant – which is ironic because he talks about it so much. All the judgment language in Revelation is lifted from the Old Testament – and every bit of it comes from the warnings of the prophets against apostate Israel. The Great Whore of Revelation is set in terms that mirror the description of the Bride (which is clearly the Church). This means that the Whore should be understood as an unfaithful whore of a church. This is precise verbiage of the Lord against Israel: “playing the whore.” So it’s not that Gentry is wrong to notice the covenant language, it’s that he’s wrong regarding the referent. God is in covenant with His Church, not with mankind in general. You can talk Reformed theology till you’re blue in the face, but if you miss this, you’ve missed the essence of Reformed theology. The view that makes the Beast and the Antichrist identical to pagan Rome (as opposed to Papal Rome and the Pope), was invented by Counter-Reformation Jesuit theologians precisely to create an alternative interpretation to the Reformers. It is one thing to disagree with a position, but it is quite another thing to skirt a reasonable opposing view by completely ignoring its existence. And the view that identifies the Antichrist with the Papacy is not one of several views held by the Reformers: It is the distinctive view!

After this, Gentry turns his attention to his interpretation of the book of Revelation. This is where his work will be hardest to swallow. In his attempt to prove that everything in the book is past and has already taken place, one is left wondering why we aren’t in the Millennium already. He literally (pun intended) has the entirety of the prophecy of Revelation accomplished by 70 AD.  He argues this based on the preterit tense of many of the verbs in Revelation – and that phrases such as “must soon come to pass” in Chapter 1 don’t allow for a long delay in the fulfillment of any of the contents of the book. There are a couple of reasonable objections to this. First, many Scripture prophecies are in tenses that sound past even when the event is far off into the future. If anything, this emphasizes God’s power by showing that He speak with certainty about future events because He has ordained them. Secondly, think of the promise in Isaiah 7: “The Lord Himself will give a sign – a virgin will conceive.” Am I to reject an interpretation that refers this to Jesus because it would be unreasonable to tell Ahaz that God was giving a sign that was still hundreds of years in the future? Of course not! Further, his interpretation method is not consistent. When dealing with Daniel’s 70 Weeks, he follows the standard 1 day = 1 year method to arrive at 490 years. But when he comes to the 1280 days of Revelation, he suddenly takes a 1 day = 1 day approach and has the whole 1280 days prophecy fulfilled in 3 ½ years. Perhaps this is correct, but he gives no clue as to why he has switched hermeneutics all of a sudden. He can’t see how it would be honest or fair to tell people of things that would soon coming to pass, when the fulfillment might be far in the future. My question is: How was it fair and honest to offer Ahaz a sign which neither he nor his great-great-great-great grandchildren would live to see? That knife cuts both ways. Plus, he is averse to injecting a long time into the fulfillments of the prophesies of Revelation, but he doesn’t mind injecting indeterminate centuries into the space between the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Second Coming.

His argument that Nero is the Beast relies on a speculative guess at the reason behind a variant reading of the number of the beast verse, which says “616” instead of “666.” He suspects that a copyist unaware of the numerical value of “Nero” in Hebrew altered 666 into 616. Now, granting that this took place, why are we to place any interpretive value on a purposeful alteration of God’s inspired word? I don’t how I’m supposed to take this argument seriously. He asserts that “Nero” in Hebrew letters (which all have numerical values), equals 666. But Revelation was written in Greek, so why are we to think that the Hebrew numbering system is what we are to use? Besides, nearly every author who has written on eschatology has his own explanation of the infamous 666. Gentry neglects to take this into account and explain why his peculiar way of deciphering it is superior to anyone else’s.

In concluding the book Gentry has three chapters devoted to fielding the objections, which he categorizes as “Pragmatic,” “Theological,” and “Biblical.” The answers to the pragmatic objections are fairly good, but this is because the objections he tackles are Dispensationalist objections. But not every Premillennialist is a Dispensationalist, so tearing Dispensationalist objections to ribbons doesn’t necessarily deal with the objections that a classic Premillennialist might offer. Little is said of pragmatic objections by Amillennialists, and this is because their objections are largely related to exegesis of Scripture, not the daily newspaper.

The answers to the Theological and Biblical objections follow the same pattern: tear the Dispensationalists to ribbons, and call it a day. When handling the Amillennialists’ objections, he generally does little more than state the objection and move on. His most formidable Amillennialist opponent is Professor Herman Hanko, and it is clear that Gentry knows this. When presenting an Amillennialist objection or interpretation that is easy to refute, he goes to Hoekema, but when he wants to present the strongest Amillennial arguments, he cites Hanko. The work by Hanko that he most commonly cites is an unpublished lecture found in the PRC’s magazine The Standard Bearer, from the April, 1978 issue. I read that article (An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism), and I must say, Gentry’s handling of Hanko’s paper leaves a lot to be desired. Essentially, it boils down to labeling it “pessimistic.” Again, I fail to see this to be a category derived from Scripture. Theological debate should focus on true versus false, correct versus incorrect, exegetical versus eisegetical, not optimistic versus optimistic. And Hanko has an additional card up his sleeve that never gets addressed: The appeal to the Church Fathers and Calvin is pure anachronism. No one had ever heard of Gentry’s  theonomic Reconstructionist form of Postmillennialism in either the Patristic or Reformation era, so they cannot be cited as authorities or backers of the position. It’s like citing Euclid to support Newton or Einstein. Moreover, the optimism versus pessimism gambit is misleading anyway. Both Premillennialists and Amillennialists believe the Christ rules and reigns and that the Eternal State will be an everlasting display of Christ’s triumph. That is optimism, is it not? Plus, this sees the enjoyment of the triumph as the culmination of all things. In the Postmillennialist view the Millennium isn’t a full display of Christ’s triumph. That still has to wait for 1000 years. Even if Christians outnumber unbelievers by 5:1, as Gentry suggests, Christ’s triumph is still not displayed as complete. For that to happen, all His foes must be forever vanquished.

Apart from these issues, the book is horribly formatted. Typos abound. Nearly every page has very noticeable typos. The whole section of Dispensationalism's pretended appeal to a literal reading of prophecy is so fraught with typos, it makes is nearly impossible to read. The word intended is obviously “literal.” But in nearly half of the instances of the word, the text reads “liberalism.” This is clearly a formatting problem occasioned by the OCR conversion to pdf, but it is very poor on the part of North’s and Gentry's organization to distribute a book they are undoubtedly aware has so many typographical errors. Plus there are countless instances of words and phrases in bold face font – as if they are being emphasized. But the context will reveal that there could be no possible reason to emphasize these words and/or phrases. Now, it may be nitpicky to bring this poor formatting up, but for a book that claims to be scholarly, and claims to trounce the scholarship of its opponents, lousy formatting is unacceptable. The book was written in 1992. Presumably someone could have edited it for typos since then, or at least since the conversion to pdf. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Inspiration Includes the Words, Not Simply the Thoughs

The prophets and the apostles,” some say, “were, no doubt, inspired when they wrote their sacred books, in so far as respected their thoughts; but we must believe, that, beyond this, they were left to themselves as respects their language; so that in this written revelation the ideas are God's, and the expressions those of a man...the Divine Spirit is considered to have presented the holy truths they announce to the view of the evangelists and the prophets, leaving them no more to do than simply to express them; and this mode of conceiving of what they did,” it is added, “at once accounts for the striking differences of style which their writings exhibit.”

We reply:—
  1. That this system is directly contrary to Scripture testimony. The Bible declares itself to be written, “not with the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." It calls itself 'the word of God," "the words of God,' 'the voice of God,' 'the oracles of God,' 'the lively oracles of God," "the holy letters of God," "the scripture of God." A scripture, or writing, is made up of letters and words, and not of invisible thoughts only: but, we are told, "all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God." What is WRITTEN, therefore, is inspired of God (θεόπνευστος); and that which is inspired of God is ALL SCRIPTURE - it is all that is written (πᾶσα γραφὴ ).
  2. While this system is contradictory to the Bible, it is also most irrational. The ideas of our fellow-men embody themselves in words; and it is there only that you can seize them. Souls are revealed to us only in the flesh. You do not learn their character; you know nothing of their desires or their experiences; you do not even suspect their existence; and betwixt you and them there are no ties, until they have become clothed with bodies, and have received organs, so that they can manifest themselves to you. My most intimate friend is known to me only by the language of his voice and his gestures. If he had no power of employing these, in vain might he remain for twenty years at my side: he would be to me as if he were not.
  3. This theory of a divine revelation, in which you would have the inspiration of the thoughts without the inspiration of the language, is so inevitably irrational that it cannot be sincere, and proves false even to those who propose it; for, without their suspecting it, it makes them come much further down in their arguments than their first position seems at a first glance to indicate. Listen to them. Though the words are those of man, say they, the thoughts are those of God. And how will they prove this to you? Alas! once more, by attributing to this Scripture from God, contradictions, mistakes, proofs of ignorance! Is it then the words alone that they attack? and are not these alleged errors much more in the ideas than in the words? So true it is that we cannot separate the one from the other, and that a revelation of God's thoughts ever demands a revelation of God's words also.
  4. This theory is not only anti-biblical, irrational, and mischievous; further, it is taken up arbitrarily, and amounts at best to a gratuitous hypothesis.
  5. Besides, it is very useless; for it resolves no difficulty. You find it difficult, say you, to conceive how the Holy Ghost could have given the words in Holy Scripture; but can you tell us any better how he gave the thoughts? Will it be more easy for you, for example, to explain how God suggested to Moses the knowledge of the different acts of the creation, or to St. John that of all the scenes of the last day, than to conceive how he made them write the narrative of these things in the language of the Hebrews, or in that of the Greeks?
  6. But we have much more to say than this. That which in this theory ought above all to strike every attentive mind, is its extreme inconsistency, seeing that those even who hold it most strenuously, are forced withal to admit that, in its greatest part, the Scripture behooved to be inspired to the men of God EVEN IN ITS WORDS.
  7. We have said, that the question relates to the BOOK, and not to the WRITERS. You believe that God gave them the thoughts always, and not always the words; but the Scripture tells us, on the contrary, that God has given them always the words, and not always the thoughts. As for their thoughts, while they were in the act of writing, God might inspire them with ideas more or less lively, more or less pure, more or less elevated: that interests my charity alone, but has no bearing on my faith. The SCRIPTURE—the Scripture which they have transmitted to me, perhaps without themselves seizing its meaning, at least without ever entirely comprehending it, this is what concerns me. Paul might have been mistaken in his thoughts, when, on appearing before the council of the priests, and not recognizing God's high-priest, he ventured to say to him, “God shall strike thee, thou whited wall!" This is of little consequence, however, provided I know that Peter might have been mistaken in his thoughts when, refusing to believe that God could send him among the heathen, he did not perceive and acknowledge that “in every nation, they who turn to God are accepted of him." He might have been still more grievously mistaken when, at Antioch, he compelled Paul to withstand him to the face, because he was to be blamed, and because he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel. But how does this concern me, after all, I repeat, at least as respects my faith? For the question is, not how I can know at what moments, or in what measure, Paul, John, Mark, James, or Peter, were inspired in their thoughts, or sanctified in their conduct: what, above all, interests me, is to know that all the sacred pages were divinely inspired; that their written words were the words of God; and that, in giving these to us, they spoke, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, (οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις); that then it is NOT THEY that speak, but the Holy Ghost;" in a word, that “God hath spoken BY THE mouth of his prophets since the world began.“ The sacred writers were sometimes inspired; but the Holy Scriptures were so ALWAYS. Accordingly, the times, the measures, the degrees, the alternations of the inspiration of the men of God, are not for us an object of faith; but that which is an object of faith, is that the Scripture is divinely inspired, and that that which is divinely inspired is the whole Scripture. “Not one jot or tittle of it shall pass away.” There is doubtless an inspiration of thoughts, as there is an inspiration of words; but the first makes the CHRISTIAN, while it is the second that makes the PROPHET.

    From Theopneustia, by Louis Gaussen

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