“And though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.” — G.K. Chesterton
In many of my posts, I focus on Genesis. So, why not turn my attention to another controversial and misunderstood book at the back end of the Scriptures, The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John of Patmos? If one is allowed to have a favorite book in the Bible, then this book has become mine thanks in large part to my beloved professor Gordon Fee. In the year of our Lord two-thousand, Fee taught a course at Regent College on The Book of Revelation. When we asked him if all the Y2K talk and the year itself influenced his decision to teach this course at this time, he smiled, laughed at himself, and said, “You know. I never even thought of that.” That answer is an indication of how free he was from the dispensationalist background of his youth. How could that be? Continue reading “The Book of Revelation: My Picks for the Best Books on this Book”
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show show to his servants the things that must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1, ESV)
The Things that Must Soon Come to Pass
The opening verse of this book undermines all interpretations that try to make John’s Revelation a coded history of current events. As Craig Koester helpfully recounts in the first part of his concise commentary Revelation and the End of All Things, there is a long history of misinterpreting Revelation in this way. All such interpretations have one thing in common, the predictions they make never come to pass. Modern dispensationalists now avoid making predictions and so resort to probabilities. This kind of thinking leads to ridiculous concepts like the Rapture Index. So, when John writes that God wished to show his servants “the things that must soon take place”, the “soon” refers to those things that the intended recipients of John’s letter were experiencing and about to experience.
Continue reading “The Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1 iii)”
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, ESV)
“Revelation”, the common english translation of the greek word “apocalypsis” (αποκαλυψις) which opens this text, is such a familiar term that its basic meaning is almost lost to our ears and eyes. Similarly, the term “apocalypse” has come to refer to any large-scale catastrophic event that threatens the extinction of humankind and life as we know it i.e. zombie apocalypse. (Pace Rick Grimes et al.)
But slow down and listen to the text. John’s first readers did not have this linguistic and cultural baggage hanging on these terms. They were not dispensationalists. There was no such thing as guns or atomic bombs. They had not heard of global warming. John and his early readers had their own linguistic and cultural milieu which shaped their understanding of the term “apocalypse” and the other terms, allusions, and images John uses throughout this prophetic letter to the Christian communities in first century Asia Minor. Like learning a new language, it takes some mental effort and yes some reading and research to understand and interpret an ancient text, including those included in our Scriptures.
Continue reading “The Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1 ii)”
In the wake of the allegations against Judge Roy Moore, many American evangelicals are pulling out the defences, excuses, and verbal acrobatics that they used in the face of the myriad sexual allegations against then candidate Donald Trump, especially in the wake of the Access Hollywood recording in which Trump confesses his predatory habits and even identifies the approaching female host as a potential victim should the opportunity arise. Alongside multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual advances, Moore has been accused of assaulting women as young as 14 years old. The accusations against Moore come amidst a wave of such allegations that hopefully reflect a sea change in American culture that will allow women and girls to come forward more quickly and while the cases may still be prosecuted. I hope this trend in the U.S. spills across the border into Canada as well.
As they do in relation to Trump, many self-professing American evangelicals are taking comfort in and finding refuge behind ill applied biblical passages to diminish the voices of Moore’s accusers and maintain their loyalty to the Republican Party. In a culture in which being Republican and being an evangelical Christian are often treated as synonymous, one’s loyalty to the party now trumps (pun intended) one’s loyalty to creed or historic standards of Christian morality. For many people (including some white male evangelical Christians like myself), the level of hypocrisy is so patently obvious that I’m surprised it does not produce a detectable stench. If I read the Psalms and prophets correctly, it is a stench in God’s nostrils.
Continue reading ““Moore” Relevant Biblical Passages”
IN his Hexæmeron, a Lenten series of homilies on the six days of creation, Basil of Caesarea provides us with his interpretation of Genesis 1. In contrast to the default practice of reading Genesis 1 metaphorically or allegorically, Basil insists upon a literal reading of Genesis 1.
As I am writing this series of posts, in the season of Lent, I plan to proceed by giving each Homily its own separate post. Hopefully, at the end of this series, I will be able to write a post summarizing the Hexameron as a whole and its relation to modern YECism. So, what you will see in this series of posts is my own grappling with Basil’s exegesis of Genesis 1 as kind of a running but far from exhaustive commentary.
You can find the full text of Basil’s Hexameron and other extant writings of the Church Fathers on CCEL.org. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VIII: The Hexæmeron of Basil of Cæsarea – Preface”
Or I Feel Like I’m Taking Crazy Pills!
So, last time, I mentioned that a friend of mine posted my Part II of this series on a Facebook page called Evidence for Creation. At first, I watched the discussion unfold without commenting but against my better judgement I jumped into the fray. As with most internet exchanges, it did not end well. It barely started well. And I am certainly not innocent, here. I get a little frustrated after being on the defensive and arguing in circles for about 400 posts. My patience wears a little thin especially when someone suggests that I need still more education and really means that I need to read a particular scholar that agrees with them. Meanwhile, the majority of YEC contributors demonstrate a pervasive anti-intellectualism but I’m the one who needs yet another MA. We’ll get to this double-standard.
What would be apparent to anyone (except the YEC contributors) to this thread would be that at almost every turn of the argument and with every new contributor they confirm the main thesis of my post. My argument is: Many YECists, in their endeavour to defend their commitments to their particular version of “biblical inerrancy”, their peculiar interpretation of Genesis 1, and their belief that the earth is less than 7,000 years old will frequently employ statements and make assertions and recapitulate arguments that were deemed heretical and unorthodox by the Church. Moreover, the traditionally orthodox position that I set forth is greeted as heretical. Additionally, I am frequently rebuked, my faith in and commitment to Christ is questioned, and, so, the question of my salvation is up for grabs (Christ’s grace is apparently not sufficient to cover my supposed doctrinal errors).
Now, as they were responding to my post about Apollinarianism, it was not surprising that the main focus was what Jesus knew, how and when did he know it. Yet, time and again and in predictable circular fashion and as new people joined the thread (having read my post or not), the orthodox position that during the incarnation there were things Jesus did not know was rebuked as unbiblical and heretical and tantamount to denying Jesus’s divinity.
Now, a few of the contributors did throw in the occasional theological term like Trinity, person, etc and one individual even mentioned the hypostatic union as though that doctrine somehow supported Jesus’s omniscience during the incarnation. Yet, Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II.1: Double-Standards and Hypocrisy”
A recent twitter exchange with a Young Earth Creationist (YECist) has been the source of inspiration for this series of posts providing me with examples of the resurgence of heretical arguments in an effort to defend YECism and their peculiar though popular way of interpreting the Bible. In the last post (tap here), I addressed the use of arguments akin to those of Bishop Apollinaris of Laodicaea in the fourth century.
A friend of mine posted Part II to a YEC Facebook page and sure enough there was a strong reaction to the idea that during his incarnation Jesus set aside his omniscience. As my friend and I kept pointing out as we “dialogued,” many of the assertions that they made demonstrated my argument. In this post, and following the turn of this same twitter exchange that motivated the first post I review the Christological heresy known as Modalism or Sabellianism.
What is Modalism?
Modalist theories were around prior to the Council of Nicaea and were therefore historically prior to Apollinarianism. Reformed Theologian Louis Berkhof described Modalism in this way, like the Gnostics, Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy III: Modalism à la Mode”
Or What Did Jesus Know and How Did He Know It
A Dubious Test of Faith
In the previous post (click here), I noted that in on-line interactions with Young Earth Creationists (YECists) it is never long before the YECist questions my faith, often in a way that demonizes me, or on more than one occasion by suggesting that I am really an atheist in disguise (which for YECists amounts to pretty much the same thing). In their judgement, I am either deceived by the devil or a deceiver in league with the devil. There does not seem to be an available third option. Yet, what truly intrigues me is that these condemnations usually occur when I have asserted something in accord with orthodox Christian doctrine. Ironically, the counterclaim that YECists offer as a corrective rebuke to my orthodox asssertion is usually a blatantly heterodox or heretical statement.
The most frequent heretical assertion that I encounter in these exchanges is the assertion that Jesus was omnipotent during his earthly ministry. This assertion is similar to the Christological heresy known as Apollinarianism (or Apollinarism). Apollinaris of Laodicaea voiced his theory in the fourth century as he attempted to defend Jesus fully divinity against the Arian theory. It was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD because it undermined the Nicene affirmation that Jesus was fully human. Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II: Apollinarianism Abounding”
Or The Litmus Test of Young Earth Creationists
The Web of Gnosis
Over the past year, I have been openly critical of the teachings of Ken Ham and his organization Answers in Genesis. The more I attended to their teachings — beyond the obvious and overt commitment to Young Earth Creationism — the more I discovered that this fundamental commitment is bolstered and defended by a web of less obvious commitments. Many of these commitments are simply bizarre (i.e. Dragons in literature are evidence that human beings lived at the same time as dinosaurs) but others are outright heretical with respect to the traditional teachings of the Christian Churches.
If the Wool Sweater Fits
While my primary aim in using social media is to point out problems with the teachings of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, this activity occasionally garners response from Ham’s defenders. In these brief exchanges, when I identify myself as a Christian, it is not long before I am demonized as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Or more gently, I have exchanged man’s fallible word for God’s infallible word. On occasion, I have even been accused of being an atheist pretending to be a Christian for the purpose of leading ‘true believers’ astray. I have never been an atheist but I have not always been a Christian. What an elaborate hoax I have played over the past twenty years of my life! I guess the joke is on me. 😉
No Creed is the New Creed
Ironically, I am most often charged with being a false teacher when I am stating a traditionally orthodox position and my conversation partner is defending a traditionally heretical position. Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy”