Monday Encouragement

We spent the afternoon traipsing through Singapore’s CBD, gently sauna-ing in our office attire, looking for a venue for Easter lunchtime talks.

A late lunch was in order at the famous Hock Lam Beef Noodles (22 China Street, Far East Square), where we chatted about the church scene in Singapore, how small churches lack of economies of scale and contacts for “productive” and “efficient” ministry, and how bible teaching here somehow gets itself mired into a possibly distinctly Asian swamp.

Traditionally, teachers were held in high regard. And disciples were expected to be loyal to their teachers and identified themselves by whom they were taught. Although this is no longer the case in the modern Singapore school system, there are vestiges of that practice in the sports, martial arts, piano, violin, etc. worlds, and in evangelical Christian circles.

So it is a temptation for teachers to gather around themselves high-caliber individuals because that enhances their prestige and of course, then attracts other high-flyers. This success rate is then the basis for much foreign investment – churches in other (usually Western) countries see the statistics and rate of return, conclude that “good work” is being done and are eager to contribute talent and money to such ventures.

Hock Lam Beef Noodles, 22 China Street, Far East Square, SingaporeThe downsides of this would be:

1. that faithful Bible teaching is now an idol. In a success-driven society like Singapore, Christians merely replace climbing the corporate/career ladder with climbing the evangelical circle ladder. How sharp you are at Bible exegesis and preaching are your tools for upward mobility. Your ability to tease out nuances in a book or passage is what people respect and commend you for;

2. that good Bible training is something kept within certain circles (although some crumbs are thrown out, so as not to appear selfish) and even if outsiders are let in, they are those who would be exceedingly grateful and show loyalty to the teachers;

3. that people who are not “good value” are neglected. Time is limited, say the teachers, so they will only nurture those who have potential to teach others. The rest are dropped like hot potatoes if they don’t fit the bill. Ill people or those struggling with their faith in difficult circumstances are prayed for and discussed, but not deeply cared for or pastored. And naturally, their disciples model such priorities in their own groups;

4.that the method of attracting good caliber people is to be dismissive of the faithfulness or godliness of the teachers/leaders of other churches. This is endemic in Singapore’s sports and arts circles where there is much bitching and cat-fighting, all subtly and elegantly done. Such self-righteousness is of course quite dangerous for the souls of Christians;

5. that whole generations (usually in their 20s) suddenly leave their churches to flock to whichever the current in-vogue church is (because they are persuaded that it is right and godly to do so), discouraging the younger generation (usually in their teens or in tertiary education) and causing dismay to the older generation.

Thankful for elder brothers who buy lunch and remind me that God is sovereign in human history and absolutely just in judgement.

Reading Psalm 119 with a flat white, Food for Thought, National Museum of Singapore.

At dinner, after chatting through Psalm 119:29-56, the John Smyth scandal came up.  Having led on Titus Trust camps, we knew how intense they could be, what deep friendships could be formed, and so what wonderful opportunities for personal work (“a deep work in a few”) they presented. Yet living in this fallen world as still-sinful beings means also that these great opportunities for good are also great opportunities for evil.

In recent years, complaints of bullying and abuse were also made against the leader of a camp modelled on the Titus Trust ones. The trustees (who were all in other countries) dismissed the allegations without further investigation, suggesting that it was just a facet of that leader’s personality.

It seems, said my dinner companion, that where gospel work is being done and seems to be succeeding (ie. bringing in the numbers), others are reluctant to hold the goose that lays the golden egg accountable, afraid that any action will “bring the gospel into disrepute”.

But that fails both to (i) distinguish between the one who waters and the One who gives growth; and (ii) understand the implications of the gospel that one claims to value so much.

Cities and Kings – Myanmar and David

More than a week ago, I met LC at Al-Azhar to chat, over mugs of teh, about how the gospel was doing in Myanmar. He talked about the thousands of churches in Myanmar and hundreds of bible schools in Yangon alone, and the regretable paucity of good bible teaching. Many Christians were applying God’s historical promises to Israel to their particular political struggles for independence (for some) and democracy (for others).

Empress restaurant by Prive Group, #01-03 Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, 179555This weekend, we were at Empress Restaurant (#01-03 Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555) for a weekend dim sum brunch with one of their docents. (The food was fairly decent, but as a Malay friend pointed out, the dishes were tweaked to accommodate a more Western palate (except the chicken feet – what can you do with that?!). I rather enjoyed the subtle twists of taste and texture.)

Upstairs in the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Cities and Kings exhibition intended to tell the story of Myanmar in 60 artifacts that had been carefully shipped over, most of them depicting some Hindu imagery and Buddha in various poses. They’d come from the ancient Pyu period (early first millennium A.D.), from the golden age of Myanmar – the Bagan period (11th – 13th century), from the city of Bago during the period of the Mon kings (14th – 15th century), from the Shan state that enjoyed some independence after the collapse of Bagan (16th – 18th century), and from the last royal city before it was “dismantled” by the British – Mandalay (19th century).

Stele. Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeStele. Sri Kresta. 4th – 6th century. As early forms of kingship were established, the Pyu elites appeared to have supported both Hinduism and Buddhism, hence the mixed imagery on this stele.

Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeBagan. 11th century. Prince Siddhattha cutting his hair – the renunciation of his royal role and the start of his path to Enlightenment.

Buddha seated in dharma chakra mudra (teaching gesture). Bagan 11th century. Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeBagan. 11th century. Buddha seated in dharma chakra mudra making a “teaching” gesture. This statue is rumoured to have wish-fulfilling qualities and so the museum had a little stand made in front of it should anyone want to leave flower offerings. There was a flickering screen nearby showing how they carefully packed the statue (as it was farewelled by Burmese worshippers), crated it, and shipped it to Singapore. Personally, it would give me far greater confidence if my wish-granter could move by his/her own accord at least.

Shan state. 18th century. Buddha and his disciples. Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeShan state. 18th century. Buddha and his disciples. Buddha’s hand is raised in a “fearlessness” gesture.

Buddha with earth-touching gesture. Shan state. 18th century. Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeShan state. 18th century. This seated Buddha makes an “earth-touching” gesture. Evidence of old lacquer is still obvious. Statues were lacquered so that gold-leaf from devotees would adhere to the surface of the statue – a form of merit-making (kutho).

Seated Buddha, Mandalay, 1901. Cities & Kings - Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, SingaporeMandalay. 1901. Seated Buddha.

The various styles and materials used to depict Buddha bore testimony to the political and military upheavals that happened over the course of a thousand years. But of course, Buddhist scriptures aren’t concerned about the rise and fall of dynasty or even the thousands of cycles of birth and rebirth, according to Buddha’s teachings, that must have taken place in the meantime. Their focus is on the here-and-now, with an eye to one’s fate as a reincarnated being (cockroach or man?).

George Orwell’s evil corpulent U Po Kyin comes to mind then. He who, in the opening chapter of Burmese Days, was planning to trump all his evil scheming ways with merit-making – building stupas and pagodas with his ill-gotten wealth. But the Buddhist scheme, at least as commonly understood in Myanmar, has no way of dealing with the blatant injustice of this.

Later, while working on an overview of 2 Samuel, I thought how different the God of the Bible is. (Of course, Buddha never claimed to be a god.) He is a God who is supremely just and cares about justice, and he is a God totally in charge of history and is guiding it according to his definite plan, yet he is also a God who cares for his people.

David’s last words as king and as an oracle:

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
    his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
    the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
    ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
    like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
    like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
“For does not my house stand so with God?
    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
    ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
    all my help and my desire?
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
    for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
    and they are utterly consumed with fire.” (2 Samuel 23:2-7)

lo hei, yu sheng. Empress restaurant by Prive Group, #01-03 Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, 179555David was never that just king. After the death of Saul, still in his own timing, God first made David first king over Judah, then king over all Israel. He was the one who gave David victory. Unlike other gods, God was adamant that David could not do anything for him (like, err, build him a house when…God himself created the whole world). Rather, he would be the one to give David great promises not just for himself but for his descendants, and later, the whole world:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me. Your throne shall be established for ever.’ (2 Samuel 7:8-16)

2 Samuel 8-10 was the height of his reign: he gets victory over God’s enemies, protects his people, shows good judgement and amazing generosity to Mephibosheth of the house of Saul. And this, you think to yourself, is a king I would gladly live under.

The Assembly Ground, CathayThen very quickly, David fails to fear God and commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders Uriah (2 Samuel 11), and God judges him justly (2 Samuel 12), and the things spiral downwards with one of his sons raping one of his daughters, his inability to judge justly, his son attempting to usurp his God-given position and succeeding because of popular support from the masses, the subsequent death of his son…(2 Samuel 13-18).

By the time we get to 2 Samuel 19, Joab has won the battle for David, but David is a sad shadow of his former self. Neither Judah nor Israel is particularly keen for him to be back as king, and the only people who are at all enthused to see him are Shimei (who cursed him previously and has now come to grovel – David quite unjustly pardons him) and loyal Mephibosheth (whom David unjustly treats quite shabbily). The lack of any mention of God here is deafening. I’d be quite reluctant to live under such a king myself.

So the Israelites then, would have looked forward to another king like David (but much better) who would be perfectly just and fear God absolutely. And they would be able to do so confidently in faith, because God had made a secure promise in 2 Samuel 7.

And as ST was reflecting, how much more can we rejoice in King Jesus! How blessed we are that we live after the partial fulfilment of that promise of a just and faithful king who will, after he comes again, rule forever. And on the flipside, how much culpable we would be if we did not bow the knee to such a king.

The Assembly Ground, Cathay

…………….

The Assembly Ground
2 Handy Road, The Cathay

coffee: Nylon Coffee‘s Four Chairs – excellent, like Bourbons dipped in milk
milk: not exactly velvety but yielded to the liquid easily
price: S$5.90
air-conditioning: ok
free wifi: yes
power sockets: didn’t see any

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Gallery & Co. and the Uselessness of OT Sacrifices

After a quick lunch in Singapore’s CBD with tired lawyers and their heavy eyebags, full of chat that was tear-inducingly hilarious, I walked over the Singapore River to Gallery & Co. (facebook. City Hall Wing, National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957) to work on Hebrews 10:1-18.

Along one side of cafe/cafeteria are French doors that let in the afternoon light (and some heat). Aside from the occasional blast of hot air from the outside, a good place to work.

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeHebrews 10:1-18 is an absolutely fascinating end to the section on the superiority of Jesus as better high priest, ministering in a better tabernacle, having brought about a better redemption, mediator of a new and better covenant.

The passage totally rams it home that it’s not just that Jesus and what he does is greatly superior, but that frankly, the Old Testament stuff just never worked.

A friend’s Jewish (not Talmudic) law professor recently argued strongly in lectures that the way forward in Jewish-Christian relations would be for Christians to acknowledge that the Jews were saved by the Law, while the Gentiles were saved by Jesus. But he fails to realise that the Law was never the solution in and of itself – it was always pointing to the real and final solution in Christ.

The sacrifices made daily and yearly weren’t just limited in atonement, they did nothing at all (how could they?). It is impossible that the mere blood of bulls and goats should be able to take away sin. And if they could not take away sin, then not only were the worshippers not cleansed from their sins, their consciences were still impure, and the regular sacrifices merely reminded them of their miserable position (Hebrews 10:1-4). So the Law actually begs the question: what is the reality to which sacrifices are merely a shadow (and not in a Platonic way)?

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeThis is all I had to show for 2 hours of work. 😦

Further, sacrifices are just second best, and a far far second. What God really wants is obedience, not sacrifice. And no human, pre-Jesus had been perfectly obedient, hence the need for sacrifice. When Jesus appeared (in accordance with (in fulfilment of, as a type of David in) Psalm 40:6-8a),  he was perfectly obedient, and by his sacrifice, he did away with the need for any more sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5-14).

Even better, there is total forgiveness of sins, so no more sacrifice is needed! And in typical typological trajectory, Psalm 40:8b (“your law is within my heart”) has been fulfilled in us believers, as promised in Jeremiah 31:33, by the gift of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost (Hebrews 10:16). So, as never before, we are now able to obey. And we look forward to the Day when we will do so completely.

Absolutely awesome possum.

…………………….

Gallery & Co. cafe
beans: Sarnies
coffee: a pity this was overextracted – somewhat bitter and astringent
milk: foam a little too thick
price: $6 (but mine was on the house)
air-conditioning: yes but balmy
free wifi: yes
power sockets: scattered

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Dal.Komm Coffee, Sidney Greidanus’ “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”

Dal.Komm Coffee, Centrepoint, Orchard Road, Singapore

After: Ephesians with med students; post-: loads of catch-up chats with parachurch workers, there was a bit of a breather to sit down for a mug of K3 cafe latte at Dal.Komm Coffee (a Korean joint, apparently famous for being in a famous Korean sitcom) and to binge-read Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

D.A. Carson demonstrated that there is little scope for clearly delineating objects/themes of continuity and discontinuity in the Old and New Testaments.

Perhaps, then, Greidanus’ theories, undergirded by biblical evidence (some more convincing than others), might be the way forward.

Dangers

  • danger of Christomonism – replacing God with Christ; “the impression that faith in Christ had replaced faith in God or that faith in Christ had been added to faith in God as though an increase in the number of items in one’s faith meant an increase in salvific effect”. Rather, “Christ is not to be separated from God but was sent by God, accomplished the work of God, and sought the glory of God.” “Today some would use the divinity of Christ as a way of preaching him from the Old Testament. Some speak of “Christophanies”…like the Angel of Yahweh, the Commander of the Lord’s army, and the Wisdom of God are…identified with Christ…but this…short-circuits the task of preaching Christ as the fullness of God’s self-revelation in his incarnate Son…when the New Testament authors speak of Christ as God, their intent is not to suggest that Christ can be identified with a number of figures in the Old Testament, but to witness to the divinity of Jesus.”
  • danger of “preaching the Old Testament in a God-centered way without relating it to God’s ultimate revelation of himself in Jesus Christ“. We need to realise that we “cannot understand God unless we understand who Jesus was and is.”
  • danger of focusing on Jewish methods of interpretation. The New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament in unique ways that were different from rabbinic practices. They were conscious of interpreting the OT “(1) from a Christocentric perspective, (2) in conformity with a Christian tradition, and (3) along Christological lines.”
  • danger of using the NT as a textbook on biblical hermeneutics. “Simply to copy their methods of interpretation in preaching on specific Old Testament passages is to go beyond their intent.”

However, he follows the advice of Longenecker who opines that:

  • where NT exegesis is based on a revelatory stance, where it evidences itself to be merely cultural, or where it shows itself to be circumstantial or ad hominem in nature, do not reproduce such exegesis
  • where NT exegesis treats the OT in a more literal fashion, with historico-grammatical exegesis, then we can reproduce such exegesis

Sidney Greidanus' As I was saying to MK (via the magic of the internet, while taking a break from Greidanus), an old friend in Sydney: we’d all grown up with the constant refrain of Spurgeon crashing through hedge and ditch to get to Christ, and of teachers chanting that “Christ is the prism” and “Jesus is the lens” through which we must interpret the OT, etc etc. but hardly anyone ever explained in detail what that looked like, or what principles ought attend such an outing.

Everyone would of course express shock at anything that smelled of a “character study”, yet we were hard-pressed to explain the difference between that and apparently-ok application questions in OT studies asking:”So how can we be/not be like David?”

According to Greidanus, the overall map to Christ should look like this:

  • first, understand the passage in its original historical context: (i) literary – what genre of literature is this? How does it mean what it means? (ii) historical – what was the author’s intended meaning for his original hearers? (iii) theocentric – what does this passage reveal about God and his will?
  • next, understand the message in the contexts of canon and redemptive history as sensus plenior – (i) canonical interpretation – what does this passage mean (not just in the context of the book, but) in the context of the whole Bible? (ii) how does the redemptive-historical context from creation to new creation inform the contemporary significance of this text? It will reveal continuity as well as discontinuity (as noted above). (iii) consider the Christocentric interpretation – what does this  passage mean in light of Jesus Christ? What does the passage reveal about Jesus Christ?

Sound Blending, Dal.Komm Coffee, Centrepoint, Orchard Road, SingaporeAnd Greidanus suggests that the specific legit routes to Christ would be:

  • redemptive-historical progression – the context of the Bible’s metanarrative or Story is the “bedrock for preaching Christ from the Old Testament”. Every OT text and its addresses are seen “in the context of God’s dynamic history which progresses steadily and reaches its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ultimately in the new creation.” OT narratives can be understood at 3 levels: (i) personal history, (ii) national history, (iii) redemptive history.Eg. the story of David and Goliath. (i) personal history – David with only a sling and a stone killing giant Goliath. Ooooh, courageous boy, commentators coo. But that’s not the point. (ii) biblical author actually goes to great lengths to show that this is an important part of Israel’s national/royal history. David, God’s anointed king, delivers Israel and secures its safety in the promised land. (iii) the essence though is not just Israel’s king defeating the enemy but the Lord himself defeating the enemy of his people (1 Samuel 17:45-47). This leads straight to Jesus’ victory over Satan.
  • promise-fulfilment – this is embedded in redemptive history. (i) take into account that God usually fills up his promises progressively – in installments, (ii) in interpreting the text, move from the promise of the OT to the fulfilment in Christ and back again to the OT text “in order not to miss the full impact of the prophetic message as a basis for the hope in the promise of God”.
  • typology – this is quite different from allegorical interpretation. Typology “functions within redemptive history because God acts in redemptive history in regular patterns. The New Testament writers are able, therefore, to discern analogies between God’s present acts in Christ and his redemptive acts in the Old Testament…Typology is…characterised by analogy and escalation…but also by theocentricity, that is, both type and antitype should reveal a meaningful connection with God’s acts in redemptive history”. Types are “persons, institutions, and events of the Old Testament which are regarded as divinely established models or prerepresentations of corresponding realities in the New Testament salvation history”. To guard against the danger of eisegesis, genuine type can be identified by: (i) literary-historical interpretation first, (ii) looking for type not in the details but in the central message of the text concerning God’s activity to redeem his people, (iii) determining the symbolic meaning of the person, institution, or event in Old Testament times. If it has no symbolic meaning in the OT times, it cannot be a type, (iv) noting points of contrast between the OT type and the NT antitype. “The difference is as important as the resemblance, for the difference reveals not only the imperfect nature of OT types but also the escalation entailed in the unfolding of redemptive history”, (v) in moving from the OT symbol/type to Christ, carry forward the meaning of the symbol even as its meaning escalates…do not switch to a different sense. Eg. God providing manna in the desert symbolising God’s miraculous provision in keeping his people alive, should not be linked to “daily bread” but Jesus as “the bread of God” (John 6:33), (vi) not simply drawing a typological line to Christ but preaching Christ.
  • analogy – this is more general than promise-fulfilment and typology. The “pivotal position of Christ in redemptive history enables preachers to use analogy to direct the Old Testament message to the New Testament church. For through Christ, Israel and the church have become the same kind of people of God: recipients of the same covenant of grace, sharing the same faith, living in the same hope, seeking to demonstrate the same love.”  Look for: (i) analogy between what God is and does for Israel and what God in Christ is and does for the church, (ii) similarity between what God teaches his people Israel and what Christ teaches his church, (iii) parallels between God’s demands in the Old Testament and Christ’s demands in the New Testament.
  • longitudinal themes – tracing themes from the Old Testament to the New. Ask: (i) what truth about God and his saving work is disclosed in this passage? (ii) how is this particular truth carried forward in the history of revelation? (iii) how does it find fulfilment in Christ?
  • NT references
  • contrast

……………………

Dal.Komm Coffee
The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road
#01-01/02, #01-03/04,#01-05/06, #01-102/103
Singapore 238843

Review of regular K3 cafe latte:
coffee: good chocolate and cherry bod
milk: pity the foam was so thick you needed a spoon to tunnel through to the drink
air-conditioning: yes, and quite fierce in some parts of the cafe
free wifi: yes
power sockets: yes at tables along the walls

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Claudio Arrau playing Chopin’s Nocturnes; Free Will and God’s Sovereignty; Meals of Leftovers

Claudio Arrau rubato-ing Chopin’s Nocturnes seemed just the right music for the job. That confident hint of…uncertainty, the slight hesitation adding to the drama, perfect for re-reading Scott Christensen’s What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty.

Most objections to what God’s complete sovereignty entails are based on  presuppositions that Christensen tucks under the banner of libertarianism:

free will is incompatible with God’s meticulously determining all things, because this undermines human freedom and responsibility…

first…only if we are free to accept or reject God can we have a meaningful relationship with him…

second..only if one could have acted otherwise in a given situation is he morally responsible for his action…

third…self-determined choices rescue God from being culpable for evil…

leftovers for lunch - pan-fried duck liver, lentils, fried egg
Pathetic as my lunch of leftovers, outraged libertarianism seems a mishmash of human chest-puffery without any effort to engage what is plainly written about the absolute and complete sovereignty of God in the Bible.

 More biblical, says Christensen, is compatibilism, which reflects that:

  1. “God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility [and freedom] is curtailed, minimised, or maligned.
  2. Human beings are morally responsible creatures – they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for their actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.”

Scripture clearly shows:

  • “a dual explanation for human acts of choosing. God determines the choices of every person, yet every person freely makes his or her own choices.”
  • sometimes “God’s sovereign decretive will matches his preceptive will (the moral instructions that are binding on his creatures). God does not determine the ends without also establishing the means. This avoids fatalism…”
    • so God elects sinners to salvation, but they must repent and believe to be saved (John 6:37, John 6:44, John 3:16, etc)
    • God determines every word of Scripture, yet men freely wrote the same words in accordance with their own intentions (2 Timothy 3:16, Galatians 1:11-12, etc)
  • sometimes “Scripture highlights disharmony between God’s decretive and preceptive wills...God providentially superintends that which he does not command…God ordains the actions of evildoers and then holds them responsible for their sin (see Egyptian Pharaoh in Exodus and the hardening of his arteries heart, etc)…All the instigators bear responsibility for their diabolical decisions. Nonetheless, they have fulfilled the prophetic role that God has assigned them.”

leftovers for dinner - baby romaine, Japanese beef, roast parsnips

Further, this freedom of which libertarians speak is a fiction. The act of choosing, conceived of as a series of concentric layers, like those of an onion, is comprised of:

  • “the outside layer [which] represents the bare act of choosing in which people always choose what they want to choose. Furthermore, our choices always correspond to what we perceive to be in our best interest…” (Therefore, there isn’t such a thing as “free will”. Perhaps a better concept would be “free agent”.)
  • “the second layer down…[is] our internal dispositions. What people want to choose arises from specific desires, motives, inclinations, passions, preferences and so on…People often have conflicting desires or, conversely, competing desires, but in the end the most persuasive or prevailing desire inevitably determines the choices that one makes…” (Therefore, if “whatever reasons (causes) stand behind each choice that one makes, those reasons always lead necessarily to that specific choice”, then it is difficult to see how “free” each agent can be. Perhaps there is some truth to the theory that big data helped the Trump-ian victory.)
  • “the core of human choosing corresponds to one’s very nature. The Bible teaches that a person’s nature either is dead and corrupted due to sin or has been made alive and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, moral and spiritual desires, and thus one’s choices, are dictated by one’s nature.” (Therefore, no unregenerated human can do any good thing (ie. anything that pleases God).)

Finally, the libertarian position presumes to define, in a very man-centred, man-glorifying way, what gives God glory. “The glory of salvation does not lie in man’s freedom to choose but in God’s freedom to bestow such a prized gift on so few ill-deserving objects of his redemptive affection.”

Chinese New Year, and Continuity and Discontinuity in Biblical Theology

Chinese New Year passed with the usual surfeit of steamboats and lo heis and barbecues and restaurant feasts and CNY tidbits.

homemade pineapple tarts with melty crusts and Anzac biccies with bak-kwaWas glad to get back to merely nibbling on a colleague’s homemade pineapple tarts and some Anzac biccies (because of Australia Day) studded with bak-kwa, instead of being pressed, on pain of seeming discourteous, to sample a plenitude of snack jars as we visited friends over the holidays.

Double-treat Tuesday -

Ecstatic too to be back to smoothie bowls for breakfast and to be cracking on with the second volume of “Justification and Variegated Nomism“. Nom nom.

The lecturers at the Cornhill Training Course used to be adamant that every single passage of the OT should point to Christ, citing Luke 24:27. I thought this an unwieldy sledgehammer that resulted in all sorts of dodgy exegesis. Yet, I also thought that the insistence of some folk at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate on holding tightly the tension of the biblical narrative (and so being very hesitant in going to Christ), while dealing quite well with an OT passage’s position on the salvation-historical timeline, did not adequately take into account our position on that same timeline.

How then to read, teach, and preach the OT now? Could some part of the answer depend on one’s conclusion on the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments?

  • What should we, who live on the other side of the cross/resurrection/ascension, make of the Old Testament ?
  • Which laws should we follow and which ones should we ditch?
  • What about infant baptism (as continuity from saved-as-a-household x circumcision)(see eg. pg 3 of Themelios April 2016)? What about keeping the Sabbath (on Saturdays)?
  • What is the biblical warrant for any of that?

 This didn’t make it as one of my Heresies of the Month back in London. But since it will be a lifelong task to comprehensively consider the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT, let’s get this party started.

dragonfruit smoothie bowl with Korean strawberries and Chilean blueberries

 I do not think the usual tripartite division of the law into moral, civil, ceremonial laws works well:

  • they are not biblical categories – no Bible writer thought in those categories
  • therefore, they impose an alien framework on the text

The first port of call, perhaps, would be a careful reading of how NT writers treat the OT.

D.A. Carson, in “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” (p393, Justification and Variegated Nomism), concludes that for Paul, this is a “both-and”. That is,

“Paul thinks of the gospel he preaches a simultaneously something that has been predicted in times past, with those predictions now fulfilled, and something that has been hidden in times past, and now revealed.

…there is no evidence that Paul himself was aware of any tension between these two stances…the two stances…genuinely lock together…

…Paul assess the significance of Israel and the Sinai covenant within the larger biblical narrative…the law’s most important function is to bring Israel, across time, to Christ…

…the Old Testament, rightly read in its salvation-historical structure, led to Christ…

…the law is upheld precisely in that to which it points…”

Yet, Carson is insistent that we need to see too “how radically Christocentric Paul’s reading of the Old Testament really is…”

Andy Naselli’s done a good summary here.

cast-iron shashuka - tomatoes, chickpeas, bayleaves, cabanossi, eggsa quick shashuka lunch straight from the hot cast-iron pan

Right. So are there any general principles that one can draw on what continues and what doesn’t, and can this be applied to any OT text faithfully?

Akan datang.

Chinese Lunar New Year Reunion Steamboat Dinner