Theological Thoughts

Through New Eyes Interview: What is New Covenant Theology?

On this second episode, we continue our discussion of New Covenant Theology with Baptist author Richard Barcellos.

Hebrews and Warnings

In preaching through Hebrews I am constantly confronted (Chapters 2,3,6 & 10) with the idea that these Jewish believers are actually true “brethren” and not just some folks pretending to be Christians. These are actual members of the household. Thus, this makes Hebrews’ warning much more severe and real. The warnings are not merely empty threats.

Theology of Cross and Glory

Luther’s categories seem to be equally appropriate to Covenant Renewal Worship.  The first part of the service is meditative and introspective. There is a confession of sins where we kneel, followed by private confession of sins. There is an initial aspect of the CRW that is very cross-centered, and it is argued that most of our lives are to be lived cruciformily.  Nevertheless, the bulk or the majority of the CRW is to be lived in light of resurrection and glory. It is joyful and celebratory, even triumphant. We are members of a new creation; a new society of worshipers. In this new creation we worship mostly under a theology of glory. We sing aloud the praises of Yahweh, we hear the preached Word, we feast at Christ’s table, and we lift our hands to praise Father, Son, and Spirit. In the end, we are commissioned to glorify and beautify the world through the gospel of the cross and glory.

Laughter as an Art

I have long been fond of laughter. If you have met me you know that I do not fear laughing. When things are funny, laughter is the necessary response. G.K. Chesterton criticizes those who do not know the art of laughing at jokes about “bad cheese”. Chesterton’s critics did not laugh at “bad cheese” jokes because they were looking for something foolish and ignorant to laugh at, but in reality “bad cheese” stood for a more subtle and philosophical idea.

Chesterton writes:

Bad cheese is funny because it is (like the foreigner or the man fallen on the pavement) the type of the transition or transgression across a great mystical boundary. Bad cheese symbolises the change from the inorganic to the organic. Bad cheese symbolises the startling prodigy of matter taking on vitality. It symbolises the origin of life itself.

laughter_1925_10_a0Bad cheese like symbolic criticisms of an economic or political system deserves great laughter. If we train our minds to laugh only at that which is simple, then we will never truly laugh. Laughter is an art; it must be cultivated and encouraged.

There is another side to this story. There are those who are immature at laughter. They are so self-centered that they do not allow themselves to be humbled by a joke. They are so isolated that they do not allow themselves to be entertained. This latter point is worth stressing. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says that ” a feast is made for laughter.” If laughter is to be encouraged and if in a feast we get to practice it, then why is there so little feasting? Christians have become virtual gnostics. They adore the theologizing and philosophizing, but they stay away from the feasting. They find little pleasure in a funny story or the jokes of a 10 year old. These Christians have created a “funny” status and if one does reach such level, then they must be kicked out. In the words of a theologian who knows the art of laughter, ” this is not only unChristian; it is inhuman.”

Not all laughter has to be sophisticated! Some times simple jokes are the most effective in producing laughter. Still, Christians must train themselves not to be caught with simple and unnecessary laughter. Crude and unwholesome jokes are an abomination. If we find greater laughter in the seat of scoffers than at the feasting table of saints, then we have sold our souls to misery, for only the wicked find consolation in the jokes of the wicked.

Dawkins and Education

Note: This is part of a weekly note sent to members of Providence Church.

Richard Dawkins–the militant anti-christian atheist–declared that he is starting a summer retreat. What will they learn at this retreat? They will mix tug of war with philosophical arguments against the existence of God, scientific proof that evolutionary theory is valid, and of course, instead of the traditional kumbaya melody, these little, open-minded children and teenagers will be dancing to the tune of John Lennon’s atheistic utopia Imagine. This reveals a sort of change in tactic for the atheists; a return perhaps to their Stalinist and dictatorial history when evil triumphed by polluting the minds of the children. Atheists thrive in demonizing the Christian faith for its crusades and violent ecclesiastical history, but the reality is that ultimately it is the atheistic impulse that leads to violence and death. Think about it. In what worldview can you affirm that life begins at conception or that man bears the image of His Creator? Certainly not atheism. Atheism teaches that life bears no ultimate meaning. This is all there is. At least Dawkins now realizes that education begins at the early stages of life. But what hope can he offer these impressionable little ones? This is probably Dawkins’ attempt to leave a legacy; ultimately, a legacy of hate and meaninglessness.

On the other hand, blessed are we who teach our little ones to awake with the sounds of the gospel and to end the day with the sounds of the gospel. May our little ones grow up with the full assurance that life is full of meaning for those who trust in Yahweh.

Fundamentalism and Separation

I have added Mark Dever’s 9marks podcast to my iTunes list. Pastor Dever and I would agree very little with ecclesiastical issues (sacramental matters included). Still, I find his interviews helpful. One interview that caught my attention was his interview with Fundamentalist pastor Mark Minnick.

Pastor Minnick is a pastor in Greenville, SC and professor at Bob Jones University. As a Reformed minister, I listened attentively to the discussion. I grew up in a fundamentalist home. I lived four years in Greenville while my father attended Bob Jones (even wrote a book defending the principles of fundamentalism) and I, was the model fundamentalist in my college days ( I attended Clearwater Christian College; in many ways a daughter of Bob Jones University). Mark Minnick lives in a unique fundamentalist culture. Greenville is replete with fundamentalist churches of all sorts; in fact, even the Free Presbyterians find their home there. In light of his many years in this culture, he seems to be completely unaware of how evangelicals view fundamentalists. He was shocked to hear Dever’s stereo-type of Fundamentalists as “men wearing suits.” Yes, wearing suits is part and parcel of that culture, as Minnick affirms. The conversation would have been much more profitable if Minnick did not sound so ignorant of the way fundamentalists are viewed by outsiders. Though he asserts that fundamentalists are deeply aware of evangelical issues, he showed little familiarity with them. As a former fundamentalist, I sincerely doubt that to be the case.

But the central point of the discussion was over the fundamentalist doctrine of separation. For the Fundamentalist, it is common to hear the idea of second degree separation. First degree separation is the obvious biblical separation from unbelievers.  Second degree separation is a doctrine that affirms that Christians ought also to separate from fellow believers.  According to Minnick, it is legitimate to separate from believers if they are associated with false teachers, that is, those who do not hold to the fundamentals. Unfortunately Dever never asked for a list of these fundamentals. At one point Dever mentioned his friendship with Ligon Duncan, a paedobaptist. He asked Minnick if that was ground for separation. Minnick said no. I waas pleased to hear that, but I wished Dever asked the following question: “What about those who do not hold to Premillenialism? ” One of the fundamentals is a belief in a premillenial view of eschatology.

As the interview continues one gets the sense that Minnick is trying to prove that his version of fundamentalism is not as radical as the schismatic fundamentalists he condemns (KJV only, etc.). Throughout the interview he attempts to build a Biblical case for his form of separatism from Galatians and an OT example. Those passages prove that associations are significant, but the passages do not prove that his form of disassociation is Biblical.  The Bible indeed emphasizes that we are to diassociate from unbelievers (do not be unequally yoked), but it is not in any way concerned about disassociating with fellow believers who share the same Nicene faith. Minnick observes that there is a Biblical imperative of unity, but this is unity in truth. Agreed. But truth is apostolic truth, not some ethereal, non-objective  truth. Minnick mentions that the fundamentals are the truth, but his interviewer Mark Dever agrees to these fundamentals, yet the interview ends with Minnick denying the opportunity to minister at Dever’s Souther Baptist Church.  Dever presses him in the end for what kinds of things would be necessary for his church (Capitol Hill Baptist) to give up in order to have him (Mark Minnick) speak there. Minnick never gives an answer, except to say that the Southern Baptist Convention needs to give more attention to this matter of separation.

Minnick is clearly different from his forefathers (Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, etc.). In fact, he seems bright, slightly calvinistic (if there is such a thing) and articulate. Yet in the end, he ends up as divisive as his forefathers and the fundamentalist movementof which he is a part of suffers for it.

What about the Grammatical Historical Method?

I affirm and use the grammatical historical method in all my study of Scriptures, but I do not think it is the only method to use in our study or sermon preparation. If the Bible is one history with many sub-histories, then the grammatical historical method focuses too much on the subs and little on the one history. It draws our attention to the locus without seeing the larger picture.  It focuses on the tree while missing the forest. Typology, on the other hand, working with GHM, gives validity to the Biblical language and the Biblical worldview.

Santino’s, KJV Only and Freezing Weather

My first “day off” from work started with the coldest weather I have experienced in probably five years. Here in the great Milton, Florida the temperature read 34 degrees compared to the 59 degrees of Orlando. I had to defrost our van for quite some time in order to make driving visible. After years complaining about the absurd and intolerable weather Disney Land brought, now I have to adorn my body with a thick sweater in order to enjoy my morning walk.

But the cold weather brought a warm and friendly time at Santino’s. I had lunch with two sharp students from New Saint Andrews. I learned quite a bit about the Holy Land of Moscow, ID. They are home enjoying their vacation, and since all good things must end, they wanted to savor a bite of a steak grinder while I enjoyed the meat-lovers grinder (think grilled sandwich enriched with happy calories).

To top off my already pleasant morning, I heard a knock. Who could this be? How can I forget so quickly that I am in KJV land. Yes, door-knocking evangelism; that lost art. Immediately I found myself confronted by that famous question: What would I say if Jesus asked why should I let you into my heaven? I quickly glanced at the pamphlet he gave me, which read: “we believe in the KJV 1611,” then answered “because I have been united to Christ.”  I am not sure he expected such an answer, but he seemed satisfied. I simply couldn’t let him go that easily. I had to keep him long enough to satisfy all my curiosities. I asked him questions about Peter Ruckman, Pensacola Christian, fundamentalism, etc. Of course, in between every question I asked, he interjected with a question about my salvation. Did I mention that he stood there and quoted about 20 verses in the KJV? Oh, the memories. I am not sure if I was his guinea pig or if he was mine, though in the end we were both satisfied: he was certain I was a Christian and now I am better informed about the oddities of this new land.

Trinitarian Living…

My friend Steven Wedgeworth has been delving into C.S. Lewis. His discussion led me to think about what I call the de-Trinitariazation of evangelical dialogue. Most of the discussions on incarnational and relational ministry is as Steven writes “a way to remake things in our image.” This thinking generally subtracts Trinitarian living and adds a form of relationality devoid of the Trinitarian covenant. Again Wedgeworth:

The primary relationship of all relationships is indeed that inner-Triune life, what the old Christians called being, however, we know nothing of that relationship until we are properly related ourselves to God.

Reading Through Judges

It has been some time since I last read through the book of Judges. I was struck once again by the cyclical nature of Israel’s bold sin of idolatry. What permeates so visibly the nature of the Older Covenant is the ease in which Israel forgets her God’s deliverance. But God’s faithfulness to His own word is greater than Israel’s sins.