Saturday, July 31, 2010

COVENANT BROKEN

Loving God and ones’ neighbour as oneself is the outward expression of the character of God and is the summary of the moral aspect of the everlasting covenant. As such God’s covenant is morally binding upon all moral beings. Moral beings include mankind and angels – both of which God created as good.

The first four of the Ten Commandments show one’s duty toward God, and the last six express one’s duty toward one’s neighbour. It was this love for God and love for neighbour that God wrote on man’s heart upon his creation. Thus the covenant law (also known as the Ten Commandments) was stamped, albeit in positive terms, upon man’s innermost being (Romans 2:14-15).

Upon creating Adam God entered into a covenant with him. Adam is the head of mankind’s household. God gave Adam an outward test: ‘Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not eat, for in the day that you eat of eat, you will surely die”’ Genesis 2:15-17.

God’s revealed His everlasting covenant to Adam when He entered into this pre-Fall covenant with him. Which is to say that God graciously promised Adam (on behalf of mankind as its federal or covenant head) the yet to be consummated creation and all the benefits of everlasting life in it – upon condition of Adam’s perfect covenantal obedience to God.

Adam (with the help of his wife) was to obey God’s ‘Cultural Mandate’, which means that he was to keep on loving God and his neighbour as himself for an unspecified period in all his daily activities. Thus the pre-Fall Adam was on probation.

The Cultural or Dominion Mandate is included in the following: ‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth”’ Genesis 1:26-28.

This pre-Fall administration of God’s everlasting covenant is commonly referred to by theologians as the Covenant of Works (sometimes as the Covenant of Life), whereby God by His grace enters into a covenant with Adam (against the devil), threatening death to Adam for disobedience to its conditions (and conversely life should Adam fulfil its conditions). This is what Christ as the second Adam came to fulfil after Adam failed to keep the covenant law. Christ came also to pay the covenant’s death penalty. Thus His death on the cross.

Says Francis Nigel Lee,
“The possibility of man’s apostasy was first foreshadowed in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). Man was required to abstain from it (Genesis 2:17). Again, such a possibility of apostasy was also emphasized by the requirement that man “keep” or guard the garden – guard it against Satan (Genesis 2:15). For God made a covenantal treaty of life with the first men, whereby God and men were to be allied together with one another and against Satan and death (Genesis 2:15-17 & 3:1-5).

“The everlasting life which God promised men, He signified by the tree of life (Genesis 2:9,16 & 3:22). And the threatened death if man broke the covenant, God signified by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17 & 3:3-5,11,17-19). When man broke this covenant with God and against the devil, he treasonously allied himself with Satan and death against God. But God was still honour-bound to come to the aid of man as His traitorous ally. And this God did, by promising that He Himself would come as man, and destroy man's covenant with death and hell – by liberating mankind from the cruel clutches of Satan (Isaiah28:15-18), For God’s true enemy is Satan – not man!” Thus Francis Nigel Lee, Word & World, p.381.

The Serpent/Satan used the woman to help convince Adam that he should break his covenant with God against Satan and join with him in his rebellion against God. It was when Adam deserted God and joined himself to the Serpent/Satan in a covenant against God, that ‘The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel”’ Genesis 3:14-14.

Christ is the Seed of the woman (Galatians 3:16). He crushed the serpent’s head at the Place of the Skull when He was crucified and subsequently resurrected. Thus Christ (as the new or replacement Adam) kept the covenant the old Adam failed to keep and He also paid the price of death that humanity owed God for breaking the everlasting covenant.

Scripture says that ‘The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant’ Isaiah 24:5.And ‘Like Adam, they have broken the covenant’ Hosea 6:7. Thus Adam and mankind have broken God’s everlasting covenant.

The institution of marriage is a vivid expression of the everlasting covenant. Marriage between a man and a woman is morally binding. Fidelity is expected in the covenant. In other words, moral obedience to the covenant conditions is expected. Should either party cease to actively love the other party the covenant bond is broken. However, ‘a threefold cord is not quickly broken’ Ecclesiastes 4:12b. Therefore there ought to be three parties in the marriage-covenant: a husband, a wife, and God.

The first marriage on earth took place when God married Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:22-24). Trouble began in the marriage-covenant when Adam (and Eve) sought to exclude God by instead joining with Satan. Adam, as our covenant representative, subsequently broke the everlasting covenant by eating the forbidden fruit. Thus God ejected Adam and his wife from His house (i.e., the Garden of Eden). Adam and Eve, by leaving the garden, entered a hostile environment – the world that would be held under the sway of the devil.

On account of Adam being the head of the household of mankind meant that when he sinned his whole household became morally corrupt in and with him: ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned’ Romans 5:12.

The Apostle Paul is referring to Christ and His Church and to the time when God married Adam and Eve when he says, ‘For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church’ Ephesians 5:30-32. God formed Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. She was part of him. She was one with him – as in the covenant of marriage. Thus Adam was to love God and Eve as he loved himself.

Christ married humanity. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John 1:14. ‘But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born [or made] of a woman’ Galatians 4:4. Thus though He continued to be the middle Person in the Trinity Christ as it were left His Father and joined Himself to His church and the two become one flesh, i.e., members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

Christ shares God’s divinity while sharing our humanity. Therefore Christ is God and Man in one divine Person forever. He shares His divinity equally with the Father and the Spirit. And He shares His humanity with all mankind. However, just as the old Adam was married only to one bride (Eve), so the new Adam Jesus Christ is married only to one bride, i.e., His church.

What is the church? In its simplest definition the church is the covenant community of God. It consists of believers and their children. To be sure there are visible and invisible aspects of the same church. The church is one. Heaven and earth are united in the church. However, unlike the heavenly aspect of the church which comprises only of the truly redeemed, the church on earth is made up of regenerate and unregenerate individuals. Which is to say that on earth there is an admixture of those who are truly in Christ and those who are not.

When Adam broke the everlasting covenant he divorced himself and Eve from God to join with the devil against God. Adam broke the everlasting covenant by eating the forbidden fruit and thus formed another covenant with death and the Serpent Satan.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

COVENANT FORMED

Introduction

To some the Bible is an atomistic and fragmented book, remaining beyond comprehension. To others the Bible is the Book which spells out God’s plan for His people and His creation from beginning to end. This is the domain of Covenant Theology.

Covenant Theology is the hermeneutic that interprets Scripture in terms of God’s everlasting covenant. God, Adam, and Christ (as the new Adam) are the main role-players in this covenant drama. Everything else, creation, garden, land, the devil, angels, demons, you, me and everyone else are simply bit actors in the unfolding of this cosmic drama.

To be sure have some larger roles to play (such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David et al), than others (such as you, me, the still-born child), but all are included in God’s plan. However, when it comes to human beings, either Adam is your covenant representative, i.e., your Federal Head, or Jesus Christ is.

Therefore, you are either a covenant breaker in Adam or you are a covenant keeper in Christ. The former is bound for Hell because of his/her own sins, i.e., their covenant breaking, and the latter is bound for heaven on earth solely because of God’s grace, i.e., Christ’s covenant keeping and His paying the penalty they each owe to God’s justice for their sins. Sin is the breaking of the (covenant) law as stipulated by the Ten Commandments which are a summary of God’s Moral Law.

The everlasting covenant begins and ends with God. The outworking of the covenant is from the very first moment of creation of the heavens and the earth to the (re)creation of the (same) heavens and earth.

In the following we shall briefly consider the everlasting covenant a) as it was formed in eternity past in the Godhead, b) as it was with Adam when he broke it, c) as it was kept by Jesus Christ, d) as it will be after the resurrection on the last day.


Covenant Formed
The Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘I determined not to know anything among you except Christ and Him crucified’ 1 Corinthians 2:2. To know anything about Christ and His crucifixion one has to learn who Christ is and what His crucifixion means.

Is Christ just some man, perhaps even a good man, who was nailed to a cross some two thousand years ago? Who is Christ and why did He die the way He did? The short answer to these and such like questions is that Christ is God and Man in one divine Person forever, and His human death on the cross was to reconcile His people to God. In a word Christ and His crucifixion is all about God’s everlasting covenant.

Christ and the blood He poured out on the cross is His people’s bond with God, their covenant bond. As a king’s letter bears the stamp of the king’s seal in wax, so Christ blood seals the everlasting covenant everlastingly.

Christ’s crucifixion seals space, time, and matter! Thus Christ envelops all creation. Or, to put it another way, all creation is inside the envelope that is Christ. ‘In Him all things consist’ Colossians 1:20. Therefore Christ is His people’s covenant (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8). In a word Christ Himself is the covenant.

What do we mean by covenant? If we keep Christ as our focus we see that covenant is a conditional promise. Thus Christ interprets the covenant in ‘Covenant Theology’ for us. In Covenant Theology the Father promised the Son certain things upon condition that the Son fulfil every condition of the covenant perfectly. Jesus Christ has perfectly fulfilled all the conditions of the everlasting covenant to date. Therefore to be enveloped by Christ – to be clothed in His righteousness and indwelt by his Spirit – is to be inside the King’s blood-sealed letter delivered to the household of God.

To really know Christ and Him crucified one has to understand the everlasting covenant as revealed in Scripture. Christ is the middle Person in the Father, the Word, and the Spirit triunity of the Godhead. It wasn’t the Father or the Spirit who became flesh. It was the Word or Son of God who, while ever retaining His divinity, became a Man.

God, who is a plurality of Persons, is one, and as such, is in covenant within and with Himself. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit, as do the Son and the Spirit love the Father and each Other. Thus each Person in the triune Godhead loves God and His neighbour as Himself.

God’s everlasting covenant (or conditional promise) is that should any Person in the Godhead stop loving God and His neighbour as Himself within the ontological Trinity, God should no longer be God – for then He would have broken the everlasting covenant.

God is eternal, having no beginning or end. Therefore perhaps it is a bit of a misnomer to speak of the everlasting covenant being formed in the Godhead. To form something suggests that the thing formed had a beginning. But God is eternal, without beginning or end. Therefore the everlasting covenant includes everything that the eternal God has in mind, such as creation, its planned execution to bring it into existence, its upkeep and redemption, and its final consummation.

It is this everlasting covenant within the Godhead that God extends in Christ to include His creation while incorporating His people.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

REFORMATIONAL TEACHING

The Reformation of the Church (and therefore of society in general) began with Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. At this point in the deformation and life of the ‘Deformed’ Church the Scriptures had been relegated to a position far beneath the agenda-driven opinions of fallen men. The wheels of the Church’s wagon of redemption had become mired in the manure that had issued from the mouths of the horses that were supposed to be leading it! But after Luther put his shoulder to the wheel and John Calvin had supplied a fresh team, the ‘Good News wagon’ of God began once again to roll forward, spreading the written revelation of God and redemption throughout the nations along with its proclamation.

By 1647 there had been many good theologically ‘Reformed’ documents drawn up by gatherings of Godly men for the purpose of clearly encapsulating what the newly ‘Reformed’ Church believed the Scriptures to be teaching. To be sure these tended to be written in order to counter false theological teachings that had entered the Church through men imbibing false or clearly unscriptural musings of fallen men. Thus, from the Reformation period onward, men had in their hands once again that which the ‘Deformed’ Church had forbidden them. They had the very touchstone of reality in their hands, the written revelation of God – in their own language!

Not only did the Reformation put the Scriptures into the hands of the common people, but it also brought with it the Scripture’s own method of interpretation. No longer was a corrupt church full of corrupt leaders the authority for interpreting Scripture, but rather the Scriptures themselves became that authority: Scripture was to be used to interpret Scripture.

John Knox (1505-1572), a student of John Calvin, can be seen promoting the Reformational hermeneutic in an encounter with the Roman Catholic Mary Queen of Scots,

‘You interpret the Scriptures in one way,’ said the queen evasively, ‘and they in another: whom shall I believe, and who shall be judge?’ ‘You shall believe God, who plainly speaketh in His Word,’ replied the Reformer, ‘and farther than the Word teacheth you, you shall believe neither the one nor the other. The Word of God is plain in itself; if there is any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, who is never contrary to Himself, explains it more clearly in other places, so that there can remain no doubt, but as to such as are obstinately ignorant.’

The Reformation restored the authority of Scripture and, with the previous invention of the printing press, it put the written Word of God into the hands of the ordinary people in their own language. The significance for the Biblical rule of Biblical interpretation should not be missed. It is summed up in the following excerpt from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

'The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

'The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.'

No longer was the pope or the papacy the interpreter of Scripture – for that is to set the authority of men above the authority of God speaking in Scripture – but Scripture was to be its own interpreter. It stands to reason, therefore, that in order for the reader to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture the reader must believe that the whole of Scripture is the very Word of God written. Though the house was swept clean at the time of the Reformation all too soon the demons of error began to return in the form of Higher Criticism or Religious Liberalism. Says RC Sproul,

'If there was a buzzword in nineteenth-century theoretical thought, it was the word evolution. The idea of evolution was applied not simply to biology, but also to other fields of inquiry. Political theory saw the application of Herbert Spencer’s ‘social Darwinianism,’ for example. It is important to realize that evolution encompasses chiefly a theory of history whereby not only biological entities undergo a progressive development from the simple to the complex, but also other entities undergo a similar sort of progressive change.

'Married to evolutionary philosophy, the Religious Historical School of the nineteenth century considered it axiomatic that all religions go through evolutionary stages of development. They move from the simple to the complex. In this scheme all religions begin with primitive forms of animism and move to a more complex level of sophisticated monotheism.'

Regarding the history of man, one can easily see the conflict between Reformational teaching and that of Social Darwinianism: the former is founded upon the written revelation of God while the latter is a product of Darwin’s theory.

It is imperative that we are aware of our own presuppositions when considering the Bible and its contents. The treasure chest of Scripture remains securely locked to all who use a ‘Darwinian’ hermeneutic to attempt to interpret Scripture. The Reformation provided the key that unlocks the written revelation of God to man: Scripture interpreting Scripture.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

THE WORD INTERPRETS THE WORD


When we speak of Scripture interpreting Scripture we mean that those difficult to understand portions of Scripture are to be understood in light of those easier to understand portions that address the same subject.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God become also flesh. He is the eternal Word of God incarnate, and as such, is our key to truly understanding the Word of God inscripturated. Says Alan Cairns,

"The key to Scripture is Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 10:43). He is the great subject of the Biblical revelation, from Genesis to Revelation. The written word witnesses to the incarnate Word and vice versa."

The Bible remains very much a locked-bag to both the Jewish and Islamic ‘theologian’ because of their denial of the triune nature of God and thus the deity of Christ. In short they both deny what Christ had come to do on earth. Christ came to reconcile fallen man with a God who is angry with us because of our sin (Psalm 7:11; John 3:36).

It is our sin that separates us from God. At the eternal Word’s incarnation God the Son united Himself with humanity by becoming also a Man. In this we see the beginning of true and everlasting reconciliation. Christ the God-man is the only Mediator bringing God and man together. Christ is the nexus between God and man. Says Herman Bavinck,

"In a word, the Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humans. God’s Trinitarian essence is the presupposition and condition of the incarnation."

Let us note that when the Word became flesh man could now relate to God in a far more personal level than anything previous. To have a Man on earth saying and doing everything exactly the way God wanted man to behave gives man a true picture of the way God had created us in the beginning, i.e., before the whole of mankind had become corrupted.

The Ten Commandments are the expression of the character of God who created us in His own image. Jesus Christ, if you will, is the Ten Commandments with arms and legs, and a heart, soul, and mind. Jesus thought, said, and did everything perfectly in accordance with the Commandments. Thus even in the flesh the Son is the true mirror of the Father.

Jesus refers to God’s Word as truth (John 17:17) and refers to Himself as the truth (John 14:6). Thus with Jesus we have the truth incarnate interpreting truth inscripturated: the Word interprets the Word. Therefore the Christian uses Christ to interpret Scripture. Or, to put it another way, the Christian interprets Scripture in the light of Christ and His work of redemption.

To be sure the Bible teaches us things about God, creation, angels, and man, but all of these are understood in relation to Christ. Scripture is redemptive-historical. This means that every passage of Scripture, indeed the whole of Scripture, was written with Christ in God’s mind. Bryan Chapell speaks of this in the context of Christian preaching,

"A passage retains its Christocentric focus, and a sermon becomes Christ-centred, not because the preacher finds a slick way of wedging a reference to Jesus’ person or work into the message but because the sermon identifies a function this particular text legitimately serves in the great drama of the Son’s crusade against the serpent."

The late Edmund P Clowney was lamenting the low use of the Old Testament Scriptures in some preaching when he wrote the following,

"If we are going to carry Bibles and not simply pocket Testaments, we should surely be using the Old Testament more than we do. The missionary Bible of the apostolic church was the Old Testament Scripture. Our Lord in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4), Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2), Paul in the synagogues of Asia Minor and Greece – these all preached the gospel from the Old Testament. During the time which the apostolic witness to Christ was still being recorded, the Old Testament was the Scripture from which the church preached Christ."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

HEALTHY PULPIT: HEALTHY NATION

"O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!"

We agree with Burns: Seeing ourselves as others see us “wad frae mony a blunder free us.”

But let’s say that some Power gave us the gift to see a whole nation as others see it. Wouldn’t that be something? Well, when the Almighty opens someone’s eyes he or she is able to see the nation, even the whole world, as Christians see it.

Having been born of God’s Spirit how would a Christian view a nation? And how can people holding this view from many a blunder free it?

Take any Western nation. Western cultures are Christianised cultures. Some more. Some less: a lot less! To be Christianised doesn’t mean that everyone in the nation is Christian. It simply means that they are under the influence of the so-called Judeo-Christian ethic. In other words, the teaching of the Old and New Testaments, ie, the Bible, permeates that culture – to a greater or a lesser extent.

Culture is religion externalised. Music, food, drink, mode of dress, politics, architecture, art et al are expressions of culture, of a nation’s religion. Christianity influences culture for the better. Christianity does not destroy culture. The City of Glasgow's motto expresses this idea well: "Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Thy Word."

Using the Bible as its blueprint, Christianity transforms culture, making it more wholesome. Christianity helps nations think Christianly. Therefore, on account of its positive influence, Christianity frees nations from making many blunders!

Christianity influences nations primarily from the pulpit, ie, from preaching. The Bible is expounded from cover to cover. Which is to say that the Gospel is proclaimed and the Law is explained each Lord's Day from the pulpits of the faithful.

The Gospel with the Law brings liberty to the people. The Law, properly understood and properly applied, enables the Christianised nation to retain its liberty. Healthy pulpit: Healthy nation.

Where the Gospel is stifled God’s Law is flouted. By Gospel we mean the Good News that Jesus Christ died for sinners. By Law we mean the Ten Commandments that shows that all of us are sinners - in need of the Saviour of sinners, Jesus Christ.

Not only does the preaching of God’s Law expose us as sinners in need of salvation in Christ, but, as well as showing Christians how to live their lives in demonstration of their gratitude to God for saving them, it also shows us how to restrain evil in our nation.

Christianity helps us to see the nation as God sees it and thus frees that nation from many a blunder!

Many pulpits in the West preach another gospel, which is not the Gospel. They preach what is known as the Social Gospel. The message of the Social Gospel has more to do with Marxism than the salvation of the individual by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Others preach a gospel that is devoid of God’s Law. Indeed they preach against the Law, as if the Ten Commandments were something evil, something to be rejected! Either way, the Gospel is robbed of its power. In this limp condition it cannot transform the individual and certainly not the nation!

Pray that God will raise up gifted preachers; preachers able to proclaim and explain the Gospel with the Law, so that the lives of the hearers will be transformed by its power, so that they will transform the nations in which the live. So that their culture will be a Christian culture. Yes, God redeems individuals, but by an individual at a time, He eventually redeems whole nations! May your culture be Christian!

Bottom line: Healthy pulpit: Healthy nation!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Scripture Answers the Primary Question

One of the bonuses of living so long after the written revelation of God has ceased (c. AD70) is that we have the benefit of almost two thousand years theological distillation through great minds and massive intellects of men seeking to formulate creeds and confessions to counter, from Scripture alone, false philosophies of fallen men.

To be sure the Church (as seen over and over in Scripture itself) does not always follow the clear teaching of Scripture! E.g., Galileo got into trouble for teaching a view of our solar system that was contrary to the geocentric Ptolemaic model of creation and the Aristotelian sciences of physics and biology etc. that many adhered to in those days. Galileo, perfectly in line with Scripture, wanted to publish that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around! Regarding the Galileo issue Thomas Schirrmacher says,

"Galileo was a scientist who believed in the trustworthiness of the Bible and sought to show that the Copernican (heliocentric) system was compatible with it. He was fighting against the contemporary principles of Bible interpretation which, blinded by Aristotelian philosophy, did not do justice to the biblical text. Galileo was not blamed for criticising the Bible but for disobeying papal orders."

Whether some church leaders wanted to stifle his views or whether they merely wanted to temporarily delay his publication is for the historians to sort out. However, this example ought to alert us to the danger of adhering to philosophies and cosmologies that ignore the clear teaching of the revelation of God in Scripture!

For the Christian the primary question itself, the answer to this question (and all divisions of the answer) must be tested against God speaking in the whole of Scripture. Thus, for the Christian, it is as the Lord says through His prophet Isaiah, ‘To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20.

The Christian doesn’t pick and choose which bits of the Bible are true, but holds fast to the doctrine of inspiration, which is to say that the whole Bible is the inspired Word of God. As one exhales as one speaks, so Scripture is the out-breathed revelation of God inscripturated. With EJ Young we believe that the word ‘inspired’ – with its idea of breathing-in – creates an inaccurate picture of that given in the original Greek of the following verse of Scripture: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.’ 2 Timothy 3:16. Says EJ Young,

"If then the Scriptures are breathed out by God, it is clear that they find their origin in Him. Indeed, the language of the Apostle is but a vigorous way of stating and asserting the Divine origin of these Scriptures. They did not come into existence because men of genius in moments of inspiration composed them. They did not arise because God chose the best that men had written and then imparted to this best somewhat of the Divine. They did not come into being because the ideas which they contained were somehow ideas of which God approved. Not in any of the above-mentioned ways did the Bible have its origin. The Scriptures came into existence in an utterly unique way. They, and they alone of all writings, were breathed out of the mouth of God. Could words be found to make clearer the Divine origin of the Bible?

"What Paul has written to Timothy must be set in sharp contrast with what is often said today about the origin of the Scripture. Modern theories of inspiration wish more and more to give a larger place to the activity of man and a lesser place to that of God. In many modern theories, the role which God plays is comparatively minor. One sometimes receives the impression that God is really not at all necessary to inspiration. How different is the language of Paul! And if Paul is correct, how different are the Scriptures! First and foremost in our study of the Scriptural doctrine of inspiration we must vigorously assert the fact that Scripture regards itself as God-breathed." Thus EJ Young.

Don’t miss the important point made by EJ Young in his final sentence that ‘Scripture regards itself as God-breathed.’ Indeed, just as the Christian listens to what Scripture has to say about itself, so he listens to what it has to say about everything else. Because Scripture is truth it is truth’s interpreter.

At this juncture let us note that interpreting truth or facts or evidence directly relates with how we interpret Scripture. For example, the Materialist who denies the supernatural denies God. Therefore the Naturalist – operating with his Materialistic prior assumptions – denies that the Bible is God’s Word, i.e., that it is God’s revelation of Himself to man. Needless to say, this directly affects how the Materialist interprets Scripture itself, the world, and the things in it. To the Atheist Scripture answers nothing because, based upon his presuppositions, God does not exist.

Rejecting all revelation of God because God and revelation do not fit with his worldview, the Atheist refuses to let Scripture answer the primary question. He rejects God and His revelation because he doesn’t want his supposed autonomy from God to be restricted in any way. He alone wants to be the measure of reality. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden when they rebelled against God, he wants to interpret reality according to his own terms, i.e., without God. He wants to make his own reality. Thus the Atheist suppresses the truth of God whether written or through the things God has made. The Atheist will be his own interpreter thank you! However, interpretation has to do with meaning. Says John Blanchard,

"The meaning, or meaninglessness, of life is closely tied in with the question of the existence or non-existence of God. Ludwig Wittgenstein declared, ‘To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning,’ while atheism and meaninglessness are a perfect fit. This explains why there are many for whom denying that life has any ultimate meaning or purpose is not an intellectual conviction based on credible evidence, but a convenient way of dispensing with a God whose demands clash with their chosen lifestyle.

"Nobody has made a clearer admission of this than Aldous Huxley. Looking back on his early days, he wrote, ‘I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know... Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless ... For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.’

"His honest confession of intellectual dishonesty is very significant. It shows that in order to embrace the idea of meaninglessness he had to stifle his natural intuition; he realized that meaning implied morality and that as he preferred immorality, meaning must go." Thus Blanchard.

Scripture satisfactorily answers the primary question. However, it does so on the following proviso and set of conditions: ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ Hebrews 11:6. Because the believer is diligently seeking God he sees the evidence of God in everything He has made. But the unbeliever interprets the same evidence in a different way simply because he is attempting to keep God out of the picture. The opposite of seeking God is fleeing Him.

With God in mind, were the believer and the unbeliever to attempt a little ‘what if?’ experiment by standing in each other’s shoes while looking at the stars in the night sky and asking, ‘How did it all get here? How did I get here?’ then the unbeliever would have his questions answered and the believer would be left trying to deny that anything came into being by supernatural means – against what he knows in his heart to be true.

The Hubble Telescope is very useful, but Scripture is invaluable for discovering our origins. Thus Scripture answers the primary question because it is the tool of interpretation given us by the One who made the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them, including you and me. All we have to do is to let Scripture speak for itself – and listen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE?

According to the Old Testament historian Alfred Edersheim, using the Biblical chronology, Bishop Ussher dates the year of creation (at least the creation of man) as 4004 BC. Therefore barely 6,000 years have passed since God formed man from the dust of the ground. Ushher's chronology is the view held by Christian orthodoxy (to which I adhere). He dates the great Deluge, when God wiped out all of mankind (bar the eight on the Ark), as 2348-9 BC.
Getting to where I want to go, Ussher dates the confusion of Tongues at Babel as 2233 BC. Therefore barely 115 years had passed since the earth started to be repopulated via (Noah's three sons) Shem, Ham, and Japheth (and their respective wives!) Of course, treating this as factual history tends to cause derision in those who operate under Evolutionary presuppositions!

But, be that as it may, we are here at the moment talking about the Christian view of history. Therefore since we are dealing with a real historical event (as recorded in the historically dependable and therefore accurate Bible – in Genesis 11) we can presume that the population that gathered to build the Tower of Babel would not have been that great of a multitude.

At this time, according to the Bible, at the time of the building of the Tower, ‘the whole earth had one language and one speech.’ Genesis 11:1. Literally the Hebrew has: ‘Now had the whole earth one language and words few.’ (John Joseph Owens) The Hebrew word for ‘words’ in this passage is of course ‘dabar-im’ (the ‘im’ ending in Hebrew being for the plural) Those at the Tower of Babel literally were men of few words!

Part of the ‘Cultural Mandate’ given in Genesis 1:26-28 to mankind in Adam, and repeated when Noah et al exited the Ark (Genesis 9:1-7), is the cultivating of language, which necessarily includes the coining of new words. It should be remembered that God Himself in the very beginning, by merely speaking His Word, created things that are (eg, space, time, and matter) from things that are not (Gen. 1; Heb. 11:3). Thus, when God confused the languages at Babel, in order to spread man over the face of the whole earth, He was ensuring that man would cultivate the new language that each (family group?) had been given. It is at this juncture that we are faced with a problem if our thesis (that Hebrew was the original or pre-Babel tongue) is to hold up.

We believe that when Moses wrote the Pentateuch (i.e., the first five books of the Bible – Genesis to Deuteronomy) he made use of written records of genealogies and such like that Noah had preserved from the Flood. Eg, pre-Deluge Genesis 5:1 states, ‘This is the book of the genealogy of Adam.’ If Moses was able to read and utilise this book and such like records, then he was familiar with the original language.

The Southern Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-98) gives the sense of relative closeness between the time of Adam and the time of Noah and then Abraham where he says,

"Adam was contemporary with Methuselah 243 years, Methuselah with Noah 600 years (dying the year of the flood) and Noah with Abraham 58 years. Thus Abraham received the revelations of paradise through only two transmissions!" (Robert Lewis Dabney, Systematic Theology 1871, Banner of Truth reprint 1996, p. 445.)

Since Moses wrote in ancient Hebrew, we believe that the pre-Babel spoken and written-language was ancient Hebrew. Of course all this only accounts for one of Noah's three sons, i.e., the Hebrew-speaking Shem – from which we get the Semites. A descendant of Shem is of course Eber or Heber - from whose name we believe we get the title of the people referred to as the Hebrews (Gen. 10:21).

Says Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in his City of God:

"Before the deluge there was one language … all but the single family of just Noah were found worthy of destruction by the flood… [Through] the house of Heber … the primitive language of the race survived… Heber … was of the fifth generation from Shem… His family preserved that language which is not unreasonably believed to have been the common language of the race, [and] it was on this account thenceforth named Hebrew … to distinguish this language from the rest by a proper name; though, while there was only one, it had no other name than the language of man, or human speech, it alone being spoken by the whole human race …

Unless Heber had been still alive when the languages were multiplied, the language which was preserved in his house would not have been called after him. We are induced to believe that this was the primitive and common language, because the multiplication and change of languages was introduced as a punishment, and it is fit to ascribe to the people of God an immunity from this punishment. Nor is it without significance that this is the language which Abraham retained, and that he could transmit it … to those of Jacob’s line …

We see that originally there was one common language, and that … and that the language which the patriarchs and prophets used, not only in their conversation, but in the authoritative language of Scripture, is called Hebrew."

The three main clans then at the time when God confused the original language of the men of few words were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Here's what Alfred Edersheim has to say about this (apologies for its length!):

"In accordance with the general plan on which Holy Scripture is written, we read after the prophecy of Noah, which fixed the future of his sons, no more of that patriarch than that he ‘lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years’ and that he died at the age of nine hundred and fifty years.

"Regarding the division of earth among his three sons, it may be said generally, that Asia was given to Shem, Africa to Ham, and Europe to Japheth. In the same general manner a modern scholar has traced all existing languages to three original sources, themselves, no doubt, derived from a primeval spring, which may have been lost in the ‘confusion of tongues,’ though its existence is attested by constant and striking points of connection between the three great families of languages. The more we think of the allotment of Europe, Asia, and Africa among the three sons of Noah, the more clearly do we see the fulfilment of prophecy regarding them. As we run our eye down the catalogue of nations in Gen. 10, we have little difficulty in recognising them; and beginning with the youngest, Japheth, we find of those known to the general reader, the Cymry of Wales and Brittany (Gomer), the Scythians (Magog), the Medes (Madai), the Greeks (Ionians, Javan), and the Thracians (Tiras). Among their descendants, the Germans, Celts, and Armenians have been traced to the three sons of Gomer. It is not necessary to follow this table farther, though all will remember Tarshish or Spain, and the Kittim, or ‘inhabitants of the isles.’

"Passing next to Shem, we notice that he is called ‘the father of all the children of Eber,’ because in Eber the main line is divided into that of Peleg, from whom the race of Abraham sprang, and the descendants of Joktan. The descendants of Shem are exclusively Asiatic nations, among who we only notice Asshur or Assyria, and Uz, as the land which gave birth to Job.

"We have reserved Ham for the last place, because of the connection of his story with the dispersion of all nations. His sons were Cush or Ethiopia, Mizraim or Egypt, Phut or Lybia, and Canaan, which, of course, we know. It will be noticed, that the seats of all these nations were in Africa, except that of Canaan, whose intrusion into the land of Palestine was put an end to by Israel. But yet another of Ham's descendants had settled in Asia. Nimrod, the founder of the Babylonian empire." Thus Edersheim.

There was, of course, a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of nations among each other, resulting in a fair bit of cross pollination of language. Take, for example, the ‘Scythians’ (Scotians?) mentioned by Edersheim. These also, I believe, are mentioned as our forefathers in the historical discourse in our ‘Declaration of Arbroath,’ some of which I have quoted in the following. (For Scythians, see eg, Col. 3:11)

"Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner.

"The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles -- by calling, though second or third in rank -- the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter's brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever." Thus The Declaration of Arbroath.

Edersheim (above) mentions that ‘a modern scholar’ (I don't know who) traces all existing languages to three original sources (Shem, Ham, and Japheth?), "no doubt, derived from a primeval spring." Thus, according to Edersheim (and other reputable scholars) there is evidence of a linguistic "primeval spring." I venture that this primeval spring (as I noted above) is ancient Hebrew. Thus, one would expect to find a residue of the ancient Hebrew spoken by those pre-Babel men of few words (dabar-im) even in contemporary languages.

At the heart of all languages one would also expect to find revelation of the Word (Dabar) Himself, for it is He that gives all words (dabar-im) their true meaning (John 1:1; Col. 1:17).

(See also Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh's ABAIR DABHAR):
http://homepage.mac.com/macfhionn/FREUMH/CananIsCultar/FMF/AbairDabar.html