Hurricanes and Homilies

I am disinclined to expend much time and effort in disparaging Joel Osteen and others of his ilk. The evidence of departure from true Christianity in the “faith,” which such Prosperity Gospel preachers propagate, is so abounding and obvious to anyone who reads the Bible without jaundiced eyes; one must conclude that attempts to dissuade acolytes from that “faith” through exegesis and reason will avail little. My own assessment might be best and succinctly expressed by one of my favorite authors in The Walrus and The Carpenter. Besides, so many others have taken up the cause of attacking such an easy target, that the law of diminishing (and even nil) returns probably applies.

However, the Osteen/Lakewood Church evolving response to the Hurricane Harvey disaster befallen their home town, Houston, is much too delicious to forego savoring.

In a story, of relative insignificance in the scheme of things, yet covered by media outlets from Breitbart to Huffington Post and everything between in an age of partisan selectivity as to what constitutes news; it can be minimally discerned that Osteen’s Lakewood Church initially “closed” their approximately 600,000 feet, 17,000-seat coliseum to hapless evacuees of Hurricane Harvey. Continue reading “Hurricanes and Homilies”

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The New and Reformed Theory of the Fall of Adam

Many a theologian has felt need to cut their teeth on the major scriptural motifs in order to leave their unique legacy and acquire reputational immortality. Honest and scrupulous introspection might find me little different in this regard, with morsels of vainglory sloshing about the deep recesses of my psyche. But in my defense, such venal ambitions can be easily accommodated nowadays, simply by remaining faithful to the text in a cacophonous sea of footloose and fancy-free expositions.

Many an eisegetical elephant has been squatted upon the Edenic narrative. In the ensuing melee that escapes from the pachyderm’s rump, an observer might detect a flying limb from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil here; Adam tumbling head over heel there; the midriff of the woman coming right as us; and the head of the serpent. Oh! That’s just a Cheshire Cat. And the Wicked Witch of the West brooming about. Woe! How did these get into the plot?

But mostly, what one notices is the eloquent flatulence.

One popular Reformed professor, author, and self-styled systematic theologian fancies that “Adam’s first sin was not in eating the forbidden fruit but in allowing the [serpent] false witness to become a resident of the garden in the first place.”[1] Adam, as God’s servant priest, was culpable for his unwillingness to cleanse the Edenic sanctuary and protect those (mentally) weaker wards (a.k.a. Eve) under his wing.

The commission given to Adam and Eve above all else was to “work” and “keep” the sanctuary (Ge 2:15; the same verbs used in the commission given to the priests in the Jerusalem temple). Instead of cleansing God’s temple-garden as God’s faithful servant and son, Adam entertained Satan himself and failed to protect Eve from his influence. This story will be repeated in many variations, as God’s people show themselves unwilling to uproot idolatry and violence (including child sacrifice) entirely from the land and then fall under the spell of foreign beliefs and practices themselves.[2]

Groan. How does one irenically disembowel this assertion and its underlying assumptions without shredding the credibility of its propagator; assuming that the latter would not be a good thing? WWJD? What would Martin Luther do? I remain unconvinced of the virtues of a blanket irenicism, which has become a prevailing buzzword among the ivory set. Even Scriptures indicates that it is periodically necessary and prudent to shred those  theological follies and their propagators which cause the name of God to be scorned, and dissuade many from coming to faith.[3]

According to Horton, it was Adam who sinned first. Stop the presses! This gnostic epiphany appears to have escaped Apostle Paul. (“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”[4]) Furthermore, this first sin was not in the partaking of the fruit of the Tree, but in failing to expel all illegal aliens with foreign beliefs and practices from his territory, alluding to the “ceremonial” tranche of the Mosaic Law.

Adam apparently violated an undocumented law in his undocumented appointment as High Priest of Eden. The logical inference; in that there existed no published law,[5] other than the command concerning the Tree, and that a person is not morally culpable of sin except in violating against what he/she knows;[6] is that Horton believes, or at least dangles, that all of Mosaic Law resided in the conscience (lex interior) of our First Parents. Horton must be applauded for rational consistency. Whereas Reformed orthodoxy conscripts an inscrutable subset of laws from the “moral” tranche of the Mosaic code into the conscience of natural humanity, Horton conscripts them all; even if in Eden, they would make little sense.

Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.

– Genesis 17:10b–12a

 If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then . . . on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

– Leviticus 12:2–3

A defining attribute of a covenant being holism; if one law of the Mosaic covenant has jurisdictional authority, all laws of the of the Mosaic covenant have jurisdictional authority.[7] If all of Mosaic Law was in legal force and imprinted upon the hearts of our First Parents, we must draw the conclusion that Adam must have been circumcised. For God to install an uncircumcised and ceremonially unclean Adam into God’s temple-garden would, by Horton’s estimation, make God a sinner, assuming God self-governs with rational and ethical consistency.

Therefore, Abraham is not the father of the circumcision,[8] but rather Adam. Since Adam is the father of the circumcision, we are all children of the circumcision, both Jew and Gentile. The many verses in Scriptures, which distinguish between the physiologically circumcised Jew uncircumcised and Gentile, let alone three millennia of non-canonical Jewish, Christian, and pagan writings become incoherent and moot.

Shall we continue?

How comprehensible to Adam’s inner compass would be the dietary laws concerning meat, since eating meat was not instituted until Noah?[9] And the First Parents must have been puzzled about those lex interior regulations concerning the Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and descendants of Esau,[10] let alone generic concepts like buying and selling,[11] borrowing and lending,[12] and wages.[13]

What would this naked couple make of the law inscribed upon their heart, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak?”[14] If there was no death, how apropos and coherent are commands not to “mistreat any widow or fatherless child?”[15]

Even Moses acknowledged that the Law was not fully applicable until the children of the wilderness crossed the Jordan into their inheritance.[16]

Shall we go on?

Does it not seem odd that when God later confronts Adam, He didn’t mention this other sin of omission? Did God have a senior’s moment? Does God suffer from periodic bouts of Alzheimer’s?

And if it be the general duty of Righteousness to immediately expel and exile the bearers of false witness and alien ideas, what was Satan doing in God’s presence in the Book of Job? How is Christ any less culpable for not protecting those (mentally) weaker vessels (disciples) under his wing from Judas before the foreknown betrayal?

And why was John Calvin so certain that “hitherto, [the false witness] had held no communication with men,” and “the woman does not flee from converse with the serpent, because hitherto no dissension had existed?”[17] Does Horton, a semi-committed Cessassionist, have special gnosis that muttered into his ear otherwise?

Such is the woeful state of modern Evangelicalism, when even its supposed orthodox seminarians are as faithful to the biblical script as a Disney movie. How then can orthodox seminarians credibly castigate Matthew Vine’s contortionism of Scriptures, when found guilty of doing likewise?

This is not a bid to destroy all credibility of a popular professor, author, and self-styled systematic theologian with a BA, MA, and PhD. It is, however, a clarion call for silly seminarians to clean up their act and stop their fanciful handing of the Word of Truth.

Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

– Proverbs 30:6

© Copyright John Hutchinson 2017
From upcoming book Faith from First to Last
[1] Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 3.13.1a.
[2] Ibid., 3.13.1a.
[3] Matthew 23, Ezekiel 23, Galatians 5:12, Romans 2:24
[4] 1 Timothy 2:14
[5] Romans 5:13
[6] James 4:17; John 9:41; Romans 4:15, 5:13
[7] Galatians 5:3, James 2:10
[8] Romans 4:12
[9] Genesis 9:3
[10] Deuteronomy 23:3, 7
[11] Leviticus 25
[12] Deuteronomy 15
[13] Deuteronomy 24:15, Leviticus 19:13
[14] Deuteronomy 22:5
[15] Exodus 22:22
[16] Deuteronomy 12:8–11
[17] Calvin, Commentaries on Genesis, 3.1.

Bill Kristol: Author of His Own Future Misfortune?

It highlighted what surfaced last year in the election; a very strong disaffection by the white working class towards the new upper class, fueled in large part, in substantial part by the open contempt and disdain that the new upper class has for the working class, and especially for the white working class, and most especially for the white male working class.

William Kristol, founding editor of The Weekly Standard, neo-conservative (a.k.a. member of any war party), pretentious  pseudo-intellectual, and a living facsimile of Rich Uncle Pennybags in the spirit of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt (1922), apparently failed to pick up on his colleague Charles Murray’s comments concerning elitist contempt for the working class in an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute on February 7, 2017.

Within the hour, he would be explicitly suggest that “new immigrants” were superior to the decadent, lazy, spoiled, coupon-clipping working class Americans and insinuated their replacement.

Continue reading “Bill Kristol: Author of His Own Future Misfortune?”

The Latest Changes in the ESV

Every Christian is entitled to his own interpretation, but not to his own translation.[1]

My pathologically precisionism and scrupulosity becomes easily incensed by mistranslations of the Bible. It is not the honest errors that irk, but rather the ones which I know emanate from pre-existing theological prejudices and speculations. There are days in which I would like to disparaging proclaim that the dishonesty of the Biblical scholars is so great that one must read the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek.

While I use the ESV translation and will cite from that version, I am always wary of intentional translative massaging of the Greek text, such as occurs in the Romans 5:12–21 passage which New Calvinists/Reformed types use to validate the notion that all humanity are deemed guilty for Adam’s sin. This is obviously against the principles of divine (Deuteronomy 24:16, 2 Kings 14:6, Ezekiel 18:20) and human justice. The validity of Christ’s imputation is judicially dependent upon the free consent of the One who sacrificed (John 10:17–18) and paid the penalty on our behalf. There has been no such free consent given by Adam’s descendants.

Another example is from 1 Timothy 2:12 – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” My suspicion of the meaning behind the first prohibition is that men generally learn differently from women. Many, observing the current state of schoolboy’s performance in the public schools, suggest that a chief cause lies for their failure, relative to schoolgirls, is in the overwhelming predominance of female teachers.

However, the second prohibition is imprecisely translated in most of the English versions. The Greek word translated into ‘authority’ in this verse differs from the norm. Whereas ‘authority’ generally derives from exousia (ἐξουσία), which denotes conferred/delegated, legal, and/or moral authority; the Greek word used in the Timothy passage is authentein (αὐθεντεῖν), which literally translates as self-arm (or unilaterally take up arms), which abstractly infers a self-appointed, non-delegated authority. Therefore, a woman can have a position of authority as long as it is rightfully conferred/delegated.

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Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. – Genesis 3:16b

A passage in Genesis 3:16 has been re-interpreted since the 1970s by the CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) crowd that has differed from its historical understanding. In response to the feminist movement and Evangelical egalitarians, these CBMW “complementarians” have suggested that the passage infers a wife’s attempt to overrule the rightful authority of her husband. At one time, I held to the same misunderstanding. But while there is no doubt that some women do make such attempts, one cannot honestly derive that interpretation from the translation.

No problem! Let us just change the translation to conform to a preconceived theological understanding! Thereby, the translation of that passage in the ESV has been modified.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you. – Genesis 3:16b

If it be true that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), then neither should any single translation be so inconsistent with every other translation. The general sense from other English translations is along the same lines as it originally was in the ESV.

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. [NIV]

Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you. [NASB]

and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. [KJV]

and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. [AKJV]

and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. [ASV]

The standard Jewish translation states “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (JPS Tanakh 1917). The Jewish scholars of the non-canonical Septuagint (3rd century BC) translated the passage into the Greek as:

καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

kai pros ton andra . . . apostrephó . . .

And towards the man [of] you turning away from you . . . (or turning back)

One presumes that the Jews should be better authorities concerning their own language than Christian Gentiles, presuming intellectual integrity on the part of the Jews.

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In the 332 instances of the exact Hebrew term wə-’el-, there is no other case whereby it has been translated to “contrary to.” That is until now! There are occasions when the Hebrew term has been translated to “against.” However, that understanding (“Your desire shall be against your husband”) would make one wonder why a woman would ever want to get married in the first place.

The revision in the ESV is semantically silly. It might make semantic sense if the passage declared that the woman’s desires (in the plural) would be contrary to that of your husband. What specific but undisclosed singular wifely desire could it be that is contrary to that of the husband?

And how would this curse be particular to woman only? Do sons not have desires contrary to their fathers, male employees contrary to their employers, and male subjects and citizens contrary to their governors? Is not rebellion a general condition of humanity?

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Another passage revised in politically necessary sympathy with Genesis 3:16 verse is Genesis 4:17. The ESV has been changed from:

And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. – BEFORE

And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. – AFTER

This rendering is semantically disjointed. The notion of sin crouching at the door infers an adversary laying a snare to bring a person under its bondage. This understanding of enslavement by sin is consistent with Romans 6 and 7.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. – Romans 6:12

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. – Romans 6:16–8

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. – Romans 7:23

A Profound Revision in Understanding

Rebellion of the wife against the authority of the husband may indeed exist. However, in blatantly revising the translation to match contemporary concerns of CBMW complementarians, it deliberately neglects another existential and historical reality; namely, that woman have often found their longings for their husbands unfulfilled as the latter seeks satisfaction away and apart from the spouse, children, and household; whether in pursuit of accomplishment and leaving a legacy (a.k.a. material and occupational success or even ministry); or in hedonistic pleasure at gaming tables and horse tracks, drinking tables, or in the arms of another woman; or in sheer abandonment.

A similar notion of material and/or effectual family abandonment by the husband and father is implied elsewhere.

Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 2:14–6

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. – Malachi 4:5–6; cf. Luke 1:17

And God as Father and Christ as husband declares a dedicated faithfulness contrary to this human propensity. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Which is the ontological curse for a wife? Being contrary to one’s husband (which seems, in my mind, to be more an ontological curse for the husband); or the ever pressing threat of abandonment and resulting material and psychological impoverishment? It would seem that egocentric male concerns have corrupted the Biblical scholars who translated the ESV.

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I am a complementarian, but not of the CBMW variety. The nature of Biblical complementarianism is not that of gender-based roles. Anyone, who has meditated upon Proverbs 31:18–31 and other Scriptural passages with intellectual and interpretative honesty, will not find the notion of “roles” in Scriptures, whether explicitly or implicitly. There are a very few functions which are delegated to males and females. But these can be explained upon other rational foundations (e.g. orderliness – “For God is not a God of confusion/disorder but of peace” – 1 Corinthians 14:33).

Rather, I would suggest that Biblical complementarianism is based on probabilistic differences in gender propensities and approaches to life, as well as distinctive physical attributes. This makes some of life’s functions more amenable to one gender or the other. But both Scriptures are, and real life must be more flexible than the patriarchal, cum “complementarian” notions of the CBMW crowd. And in reducing the gender differences to roles rather than to natural propensities, the CBMW crowd become intellectually incapable of presenting a credible rational defense against same-sex relationships and marriage.

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It is never a good occasion to translate a passage in the midst of controversy; or to trust such translations. Even beyond that; the blatantly deceitful and unconvincing manner of this latest ESV revision makes one averse to utilizing the ESV Bible, invokes greater distrust of the Christian intelligentsia, and discredits the cause of Christ.

 

 

 

[1] This is a variant on Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous quip, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” as it relates to texts.

Substitutionary Atonement: The Satisfaction of the Wrath of God? (Long Read)

Many, who give Christianity a go, so to speak, do so on the basis of emotive appeals and/or yearning. And many, who eventually and effectively fall away, do so because Christianity seems incoherent. This may manifest itself as outright rejection, as neglect, or in wayward departure from essential verities and their application. Application is an entailment of genuine faith; much as technological applications entail genuine faith in underlying principles of scientific theories.

Proponents of Christianity can do little in regard those who honestly cannot reconcile Christianity with perceived realities; or those who exalt their own reason and/or psyche as the ultimate arbiters of Truth and the Good, especially whenever the counter-intuitive wisdom of the God of Scriptures comes into conflict (which shall inevitably occur); or those who were never sufficiently serious.

However, proponents of Christianity ought to, at least, ensure that the Gospel and Full Counsel of God that is transmitted is scripturally faithful and thereby rationally coherent. It is cause for deep grief and great disgust when it is the errant teachings of ecclesiastical orthodoxy, which prove contrary to Biblical orthodoxy, which are the reasons for initial or eventual rejection. It is cause for deep frustration when more time is required disabusing what Christianity is not, perpetuated by those self-identified and supposedly Christian, than in explaining what Christianity is.

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The Atonement of Christ, as the sating of the wrath of God unto our Justification, is one such ecclesiastical orthodoxy, deserving of such disdain. Continue reading “Substitutionary Atonement: The Satisfaction of the Wrath of God? (Long Read)”

Gender Neutral Bathrooms and Circumcision

My wife and I never saw eye to eye with regard to the circumcision of our three boys. But she was a nurse from Britain, where this operation is a “minority” procedure; whereas at the time, most North Americans allowed the members of their boys to be given a slice.

The medical arguments which I floated, and which might have substance in ancient Israel or modern undeveloped countries, seemed feeble even to me. There is absolutely no Christian warrant for circumcision (Gal 5:6, 6:15). The best argument that I mustered was so that our sons would not feel alienated from their father and later their siblings if by chance, such members were sighted; the rawest form of traditionalism. I am loathe to admit that she was right.

So, when I see Mark Joseph Stern argue himself rouge that circumcision has significant medical benefits in the antiseptic West, it becomes obvious that other motivations are driving his drivel. Having lived in Israel for eight months, it is likewise obvious that circumcision serves as a fundamental distinctive ethnic, cultural, and religious marker. Mr. Stern’s arguments seems to be “pseudoscientific argle-bargle—it’s about religion and very little else.” Continue reading “Gender Neutral Bathrooms and Circumcision”