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Interfaith Dialogue: What does it mean for Christians? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 12:08

"Jesus Christus allein ist Herr über Deutschland!" Jesus Christ alone is Lord over Germany! So shouted one bold Christian German woman over the wailing prayer of an Imam who had been invited to pray before a concert at a Church in Speyer, one of the early centers of the Protestant Reformation. Here is a video of this woman who has been called the "brave German woman" in the media:

[Source: www.cbn.com/tv/3165134808001]

The video moved me deeply as I have been quite concerned about the spiritual state of both Europe and the US and the rise of syncretism between faiths (especially concerning what has been dubbed "Christlam") for some time, and it spurred me to think more about attempts at what is called "interfaith dialogue".

This woman got pretty fired up about it in this case. I found another video of what happened after she got kicked out of the Church and she was pretty furious about a Christian Church being used to spread falsehood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZGDLIvdaPU (completely in German). Starting at 0:50 in the video (while crossing the street) the man holding the camera says: "Mohammed in the Church. What does that have to do with Jesus?" Then the woman shouts: "I am ashamed! (Pointing at the Church) That is the Church of faith, of faith in Jesus Christ! And we let 'Allah Akbar' be called out in it!... In our Church!" She had every right to be angry about the reappropriation of a Church to give voice to an Imam's prayer to Allah before the audience gathered there. It brings to mind similar incidents of righteous indignation demonstrated by the prophets in the Bible against idolatry.

One person that I talked to about this suggested, however, that interfaith dialogue is okay but not inside of a Church. But may I sharply question what is meant by "interfaith dialogue"? What would such a thing hope to accomplish? It seems that things such as Masonic Lodges, for example, are designed to absorb those who are interested in syncristic (even generalized) deism and interfaith union, which I view with a high level of skepticism (any idolatrous compromise is in fact heresy from the Christian faith). The idea of interfaith dialogue evokes the idea of compromise to me, and this verse comes to mind to serve as a warning against such compromise: 

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)

Now, what is meant by this is not a phobia of and certainly not a hatred or despising of those of other faiths, but rather a protecting of the boundaries of the Christian faith itself. Of course, it is not only legitimate but also desireable and commanded for Christians to love everyone and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Another person in the conversation said, "When a person possesses the love of Christ within them, it is like a magnet that draws people toward God." Indeed, and amen. We should not be defined ultimately by being against something but rather by being for something in life. And in the Christian life that something is a someone. What I am trying to communicate here is not so much a stance of being of anti-Islam (or other faiths) as it is being pro-Christ, and when one is pursuing Jesus Christ the lines and contours of the faith must not be blurred or compromised.

However, to finish my line of thought I want to address the suggestion that refusing to have an "interfaith dialogue" means not speaking to someone of another faith. That is a misunderstanding of what "interfaith dialogue" means. If I say to the Muslim owner of a local store in my city "Thank you! Have a good day!" for processing my transaction, we did not just have an interfaith dialogue just because we are of two different faiths. That is just normal conversation, regardless of and not touching upon one's faith, in terms of subject matter. That is common courtesy to converse with someone in such a manner. Additionally, when looking at this at a political level, nations who have citizens of two completely different predominant religions also need to talk to establish good international relations, but that is not an interfaith dialogue either. We must clarify what we mean by interfaith dialogue then.

The Apostle Paul distinguishes between yoking and associating oneself with unbelievers (which I quoted above) and the practical and love-oriented interaction that we must have with unbelievers in hopes of winning them to Christ: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world" (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). But for example when representatives & leaders among different religions get together and try to find "common ground" between their faiths in the name of peace I always cringe because for a Christian representative it requires watering down the Gospel and shying away from mentioning Jesus as the only way to God (which is inadmissable for it to qualify as "interfaith"). Interfaith dialogue in this context means mixing, combining, and also cutting out incompatible parts between the participant faiths, thus making a new faith which is embraced in practice. This is in essence not just dialogue but true "interfaith union".

In 2007 a large group of Muslim scholars sent an open letter titled A Common Word Between Us and You, to Pope Benedict and the leaders of other Christian denominations. A well-known response to that attempt at interfaith dialogue was drafted by some academics at the University of Yale that they named Loving God and Neighbor Together, in which a Christian "reaching out" to Islam is proposed. That response has drawn criticism from articles like the following one, aptly entitled "You Don't Speak For Me". Particularly it levels this criticism:

"The assumption in the letter is that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Christianity. This is a denial of Jesus Christ, as Muslims absolutely refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God. This is the very foundation of Christianity."

Even with the interfaith vigil ceremony in 2013 for the victims of the tragic Boston marathon bombing, the Christian minister's prayer was very generalized (I presume so as to not "offend" anyone). What is now being called "Christlam" (a merging of Christianity and Islam) is becoming more prevalent in Africa and in the western world, and represents the results of interfaith dialogue and "tolerance" which says that Allah is the same as the Christian's God. I am very opposed to such "interfaith dialogue", which in this context is only a codeword for religious compromise.

This is a caution for any Christian thinking of engaging in what is called "interfaith dialogue". So ultimately, in any situation, let us be wary of what is meant by "interfaith dialogue" and see through the agendas, the codewords, and slights of hand to make it seem like something other (and "better") than what it actually is and seeks to pursue. The pure faith and Gospel of Jesus Christ needs nothing added to it. The only need is for people to see the light of the Gospel's truth and to act in thankful obedience to it in response to a merciful God who sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins that we might not be condemned and perish but have everlasting life through Him!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 06:29
The Qualities and Qualifications of Being a Disciple of Jesus PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 21 March 2014 18:37

        Jesus did not pick his disciples because of any worldly qualifications that they possessed. Many of them had ordinary occupations. A few were wealthy, most were not. Some had occupations that were often vilified and ill-spoken of by the public, like Matthew (a tax collector) and Simon (a Zealot – a radical militant Jew who fought against the Romans). It was not necessarily what Jesus called them from, but rather what Jesus called them to, that was the most significant. It also was not by their own ability but rather the enablement of the Spirit and faith in their master Jesus, whom they walked with, that enabled them to do extraordinary things. During Jesus’ ministry the disciples baptized those who believed in Jesus (John 4:1-2) and they also went out two-by-two into many cities in Israel to tell people of the Messiah who had come (Matthew 10). Jesus gave them the power to cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform miracles as they went from town to town. All this came from the power given to them by divine authorization, support, and their receptive faith to carry out their task.

The faith of those among his group of disciples varied, and each had their own distinct personality. Philip was inquisitive. Peter was outspoken and prone to act first and think later. Other disciples were more quiet and didn’t get in the way much, yet were no less firm in faith. Jesus however saw the condition of their hearts and their potential to operate in faith, over and above what ordinary people might have perceived them to be capable of. Thus he entrusted them with his most private sayings and treated them all as friends, even Judas the bretrayer. Jesus had more disciples than just the twelve during his ministry, but the twelve were his most loyal followers who stuck with him to the end (strangely even Judas remained with Jesus till near the end). This shows the twelve disciples as his most loyal followers, even through their faults and weaknesses.

Jesus at one point in his ministry had many followers, but when he taught some things that were hard to accept many forsook him: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore(John 6:66). Yet Peter, when asked along with the remaining disciples whether they would like to leave also, replied “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (vs.68). The twelve proved to be those that listened to those words of eternal life and the teachings of Jesus and dearly clung to them. The kind of disciples that Jesus used to spread his eternal Gospel were those who had been tested in faith and found worthy: not by virtue of their former professions or accomplishments but because of their faith and their subsequent works of obedience which they demonstrated in following him. Jesus commended his closest disciples saying to them, “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” (Luke 22:28). They endured trials and were found to be worthy and loyal.

Because of this loyal faith demonstrated by the disciples Jesus was able to use them for the glory of his Father in heaven to spread the good news of the coming kingdom of God. Jesus after his resurrection told the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit(Matthew 28:19). If it were not for the disciples’ faith and God’s enablement they would have been here laden with an impossible task. The equipping for ministry was given to them by Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which they received because of their faith and expectation that Jesus would perform what he said he would. Jesus told them “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth(Acts 1:8). The moving forward of the kingdom was relentless, as Jesus alluded to when he said about the kingdom “everyone is pressing into it(Luke 16:16). The command to go out and preach the Gospel was given by the Lord of all things, and the disciples were working with the relentless momentum and movement of God’s kingdom upon and throughout the earth. If God was for them, who could be against them?

The entire book of Acts bears out the witness of how the faith of the disciples carried them forward and out into the world with the marvelous testimony of Jesus Christ, not only in word but also in deed and power! Though preparation and training is required for effective discipleship, faith and obedience are the main requirements and the main qualifiers for anyone carrying out ministry. The Gospels and Acts prove that any man or woman, no matter how humble a background they come from, may be used to powerful effect for the kingdom of God by trusting in Jesus Christ and his power to affect people’s hearts and lives. The relentless power of the Gospel is God’s very own, and we are merely given the task of faithful stewardship in the act of carrying and releasing it to the world!

Very simply these action-words sum up the ways the disciples became effective followers and proclaimers of Jesus Christ, which act also as admonitions for us from Scripture: Believe, Learn, Trust, Follow, Obey, Proclaim, Mature, Endure, Pray, Rejoice, and Hope. These are all fruits of faith and of the Spirit which the faithful believer will cultivate and produce in effective ministry and walking after Jesus, the Lord of all creation. 

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 19:01
Terminology study around the use of Baptize in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Galatians 3:27-28, and Romans 6:3-4 PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 January 2014 11:02

In a book I read not too long ago on the Holy Spirit there was a discussion about the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit in a volume in the NAC series, and on one of the pages I saw a footnote which suggested that 1 Corinthians 12:13 was irrelevant to the discussion since it "looks" like it refers to water baptism. However, I have good reason to believe that it does not refer to water baptism, and would like to here explain my reasoning on that. I also believe that Galatians 3:27-28 and Romans 6:3-4 are relevant to the discussion based on their similarity to 1 Corinthians 12:13, so they will receive due attention as well.

A Look at 1 Corinthians 12:13

I would like to start by discussing 1 Corinthians 12:13 briefly below. I think it is most instructive and enlightening to compare side-by-side the terminology used in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 since they are written in the same epistle, by the same writer, are in relatively close proximity to one another (even in the same thematic context - as I will show), and both use similar terminology (some of which is seldom used elsewhere).

I conducted a careful terminological study of 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and noticed a few of the following things.

First, the recurrence of the word "same" and occasionally "one" (indicating unity) as in:

  • "same Spirit" (vs. 4)
  • "same Lord" (vs. 5)
  • "same God" (vs. 6) Side note: Who can miss the Trinitarian overtones at this point with Spirit, Lord, and God used like this?
  • "same Spirit" (vs. 8)
  • "same Spirit" x2 (vs. 9) Now Paul really starts emphasizing the Spirit in connection with this "sameness".

Then we see vs. 11 using the same terminology: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." There we now see the use of "one" and "same" together.

Then comes vs. 12-13: "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." In these verses we see the use of "one" recurring and a baptism that is "by (Greek: εν [en]) the Spirit", by which we are baptized into the Body. The language here is evident enough that this is not a literal baptism being spoken of, since you cannot be physically baptized into a 'soma' (Greek for 'body'), but rather that it is speaking of a spiritual action here of the Holy Spirit spiritually baptizing us into the collective Church and Body of Jesus Christ.

But let's compare this terminology to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4:

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

First let us note that the subject is the collective of Israel "all our fathers" just as the subject in 1 Corinthians 12:12 is "one body" with "all the members" (cf. "as the body is one and has many members"). 1 Corinthians 12:12 is obviously referring to the members of the Church as being placed together into a metaphorical "body" with the body's "members" standing for the individuals united together into that single entity.

Next we see something that happens to "all" in both groups:

  • "all were baptized unto Moses" (1 Cor. 10:2) - 'unto' = Greek: εἰς [eis] (into)
  • "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13) - 'into' = Greek: εἰς [eis] (into)

Just as the Israelites were metaphorically "baptized" into Moses (many individuals being baptized "into" a singular entity) so Christians are metaphorically baptised "by the Spirit" (meaning by means of the Spirit) "into" (eis) a singular body. See the parallel?

You can see the parallels side by side in the table below:

1 Corinthians 10 1 Corinthians 12

(many members - "whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free")
Moses One Body (Jesus' body)
"all were baptized" (1 Cor. 10:2) "we were all baptized" (1 Cor. 12:13)
"into Moses" (1 Cor. 10:2) "into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13)

Oh, but the parallelism doesn't stop there! There are even further observations which seal the understanding that the terminology between chapters 10 and 12 is parallel.

1 Corinthians 10:3-4a "And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink".

Firstly, note the word "same" here (same meat, same drink) as also occurs often in chapter 12 as noted above. Paul is trying to illuminate the commonality of the things which God's people have experienced and partaken of together in both chapters. Essentially the "all", in each passage, partake of the "same" in both chapters 10 and 12.

But note even further that there is additional similarity in the metaphorical terminology for partaking: drinking! 1 Corinthians 10:2 also includes eating, but we see the basic similarity of theme in the sharing and use of the term "drinking" in 10:3 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. And it is not just ordinary drink, but drink that is connected to what is spiritual in nature:

  • "and did all drink the same spiritual drink " (1 Cor. 10:4)  
  • "all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13)

The "Spirit"/"spiritual" word-coupling with this word "drink" is no accident! It indicates that the partaking of the baptism into 'one' is experienced THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Holy Spirit communicates to us the life of Jesus, whose body we are if we are united through spiritual baptism by the Spirit into Him. And 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that most clearly: "for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ".

So Paul sets the stage for understanding this spiritual partaking of Christ in Israel in chapter 10 only to later take up the same terminology, and line of thought, in chapter 12 to apply to the Church. This is also why the warning in chapter 10 about how God was "not well pleased" with them, because of their conduct afterwards, most certainly is an applicable warning to the Church and not just the Israelites! In short the terminology Paul uses sets these two passages up for parallel reflection about the two congregations that believed in God for salvation and whom God had called out as His own people. Their experiences were similar in many ways and Paul draws on those similarities thematically in his epistle.

The terminological parallels are utterly undeniable, and just as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 is not speaking of water baptism but a spiritual baptism that enabled them to partake of "spiritual drink", so too 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 is not referring to a water baptism but a Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So why this spiel on those two passages? I believe that once you understand that 1 Corinthians 12:13 is speaking of a spiritual baptism that it becomes clearer that Galatians 3:27 and Romans 6:3-4 use the term in a similar fashion - speaking of spiritual realities.

A Look at Galatians 3:27

Galatians 3:27 says "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."

This "baptized into" parallels 1 Corinthians 12:13 quite closely:

  • "baptized into Christ" - Galatians 3:27
  • "baptized into one body" - 1 Corinthians 12:13

We know that the body is Christ's body as 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us (if it wasn't evident already), so "one body" and "Christ" have the same referent. But wait! There is another similarity to these passages. What comes right after Galatians 3:27? We read that vs. 28 says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Wow! Have we seen that terminology before? Well, let's see:

  • "neither Jew nor Greek" - Galatians 3:28
  • "whether Jews or Greeks" - 1 Corinthians 12:13
  • "neither slave nor free" - Galatians 3:28
  • "whether slaves or free" - 1 Corinthians 12:13
  • "for you are all one in Christ Jesus" - Galatians 3:28
  • "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ." - 1 Corinthians 12:12 && "all baptized into one body" && "been all made to drink into one Spirit" (vs. 13)

These two passages obviously have the exact same topical context of uniting Jew and Greek and Slave and Free into "one" in Jesus - and mean the same thing - so it manifestly makes sense to see the "baptism" in both passages as referring to the same thing: Baptism of the Spirit.

A Look at Romans 6:3-4

Once we see the linkage between those two passages then perhaps we can see Romans 6:3-4 clearer I believe:

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

We have here a somewhat different context that is not focusing as much on unity of believers in the body of Christ, nor do we see mention of the Spirit explicitly. However, the truths discussed here are spiritual in nature and "baptize" is also used in a non-literal, metaphorical manner. Death is not a substance one can be physically immersed in, so we know then that the use is metaphorical. Paul's limited use of this term "baptize" in a metaphorical sense obligates us to compare it to the few other instances in which he does the same: 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Galatians 3:27. When we do, if I am not mistaken, we can see this as a more forensic and "zoomed in" description (magnified specifics) of what happens spiritually for the believer when they are associated with Christ's work on the cross through faith.

Believers are described as having been "baptized into his death" which means our old self, which is judged under God's condemnation of sin, is made dead with Christ through his burial and then we are given his resurrection life because of Jesus being raised from the dead. These are spiritual truths which are not communicated by ritual water immersion but by identification with Jesus through faith to regenerate us (the "new life" [birth] image that is present here - through Christ's resurrection). Such new birth and eternal life only come through the Spirit, as Jesus made clear in the full context of John 3, and regeneration itself comes by the Spirit as shown in Titus 3:5.

I believe the baptism indicated here is the spiritual Baptism of the Spirit that brings new life and regeneration, and which identifies a person as belonging to God and the body of Christ (Romans 8:9). Ultimately the possession of the Spirit and not water baptism identifies a person as belonging to God, and is what God's seal and mark of ownership is based on (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13) as with a spiritual signet ring. That baptism by the Spirit is the true and essential baptism.

Concerns and Concluding Thoughts

I will lastly try to address one concern here that such an interpretation of these verses unduly leaves out consideration of a reference to water baptism being present.

Thomas Schreiner in his contribution to the collection of papers collated into the NAC Studies in Bible & Theology book Believers Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ in the chapter titled "Baptism in the Epistles: An Initiation Rite for Believers" says on 1 Corinthians 12:13:

"Baptism, as in Gal 3:28 and 1 Cor 12:13, is mentioned to underscore the unity of believers" (pg. 71)

"Paul is almost certainly speaking of the time of conversion here, for Jesus immerses in the Spirit so that his people are incorporated in the body of Christ. The second half of v. 13 expresses the same reality. At conversion, believers drink of one Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is the mark of induction into the people of God (Gal. 3:1-5), and hence Jesus' work of baptizing with the Spirit occurs at the threshold of the Christian life." (pg. 72)

On Galatians 3:27:

"Paul's main theme here is not baptism. His point is that all believers are clothed with Christ. We see incidentally, however, that baptism was universal in the church (and hence central!), since all those who are clothed with Christ (i.e., all Christians) are baptized." (pg. 74)

And on Romans 6:3-4:

"To say that those who are baptized have died with Christ is just another way of saying that all Christians have died with Christ. There was not a serious problem, as there is today, with Christians being unbaptized in the NT period... Those who restrict the reference to Spirit baptism in Romans 6 truncate the baptismal message, for separating water baptism and Spirit baptism introduces a false dichotomy into the Pauline argument. Paul does not drive a wedge between Spirit baptism and water baptism, as if the former is what really matters and the latter is superfluous. Such a viewpoint may suffer from reading the text through modern experiences in which water baptism often occurs significantly before or after conversion." (pg 74-75; emphasis his)

Now, Schreiner is right to see the clear terminology of the Spirit baptism in Romans 6:3-4 (as well as 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Galatians 3:27) but he in the rest of the chapter argues for a kind of synechdoche (where a part of something stands for the whole) for the implied inclusion of water baptism, since it seems he feels that leaving out a reference to it is harmful to developing a doctrine for water baptism. In other words, he notes that "Jesus' work of baptizing with the Spirit occurs at the threshold of the Christian life", and yet is not satisfied if he cannot additionally find a reference to water baptism in those same verses. The NAC commentary, in the same series, on 1 Corinthians explicitly states that 1 Corinthians 12:13 should not be read as a reference to water baptism (contrary to the comment found in the other NAC volume that I mentioned at the beginning of the article): "The baptism here should not be equated with water baptism, although water baptism depicts what Paul describes. Paul's emphasis on baptism into one body in one Spirit strongly emphasizes the unity of the body."

Also Schreiner is no doubt correct that probably all Christians at the time were water baptized, such that there was no occasion for Paul to really mention it. I, however, would put the burden of proof on Schreiner to show where the emphasis lies in Paul's usage in each case of the verses examined above: the water rite or the spiritual accomplishment and reality? He is justifiably trying to (in general) defend the importance of water baptism doctrinally, but at the cost of diffusing the clear emphasis on the spiritual accomplishment in these passages.

Paul is not trying to drive a wedge between water and Spirit baptism, but Paul's usage of "baptize" in those passages is clearly - as determined by their context and terminology - metaphorical, since he is emphasizing the spiritual realities. I am afraid that reading into these passages a simultaneous reference to water baptism here misses Paul's emphasis. You may draw your own conclusions from scripture, but my main concern in this study has been to show the spiritual reference of "baptism" in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Galatians 3:27, and Romans 6:3-4. I hope that overall these observations will bring you closer to a true understanding of the meaning of the scriptures as you diligently search them!

Soli Deo Gloria

Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2016 21:16
The Object of Biblical Theology PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 21:24

A Historical and Modern Evaluation

As one looks back over centuries of biblical interpretation it appears that there have been almost innumerable books written on the subject. There also have been interpretational approaches taken ranging from the purely allegorical to strict literalism or even mystical interpretations like gematria that looks for hidden meaning behind every letter. Previously this pursuit of biblical interpretation, in all its diversity and difference in traditions, had yet still remained almost exclusively within the realm of Christendom and occasionally Jewish scholars who wrote on things outside of the rabbinical traditions, until about the mid-17th century. The discussion up until that time still went back to basic convictions of the truthfulness of the Bible and theological principles derived from it. It was even the subject of such grand theological works as Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, one of the most significant results of Scholasticism in the Middle Ages before the Protestant Reformation.

With the advent of the Protestant Reformation came the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and increasing weight and attention were given to scripture itself above the Medieval allegorical interpretations or the highly philosophical syllogistic reasoning that often characterized Scholasticism. Certain theological points were rallied around and based upon one's interpretation of scripture, and theological books were mostly written on principles that appear all throughout the Bible and not just in one particular book - a systematic theology of sorts. As more and more study of the scripture proliferated it set the stage to become an equal target, as anything else, for the effects of the Enlightenment and rationalism. That has ultimately led to some very long lasting results up to today which should be examined and addressed.

Effects of the Enlightenment and Higher Criticism

The advent of the Enlightenment in Europe in the mid to late 17th Century brought a great emphasis on rationality, scientific inquiry, and logical deduction. Blaise Pascal was one Christian who in that era took the new emphasis on rationalism as a complimentary boon to faith and insisted that the two complemented rather than opposed one another. Even earlier during the Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus (von Rotterdam) was another well-studied Christian and intellectual who led the new learning which was spreading on continental, transalpine Europe into a form of Christian Humanism that used the learning to support one's faith. Dr. John Reynolds in his book The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization wrote of Erasmus:

"Erasmus also defied the modernist conviction that a combination of increased learning and of comprehending the world's problems will inevitably lead to secularism. He was a pious man without ignoring hypocrisy, and he was fabulously learned without thinking that the intellect was everything." (Foreword to Chapter 10)

One of the results of the Enlightenment on the study of scripture was that a more scientific, organized, and methodological approach to interpreting scripture was developed. That is probably the root from which the idea of having a coherent "hermeneutic" derives from - a hermeneutic being an orderly framework for the interpretation of written texts which determines one's approach to interpretation and presuppositions about a text. It has become standard seminary practice today to teach hermeneutics to theology students, and it goes hand-in-hand with what is called "exegesis", which is an explanation or interpretation of something originating from thorough analysis of a text. This development has had both up and downsides, as we will see.

As European intellectualism advanced up through the 19th century the scriptures began to be interpreted by those outside of the Church as well, no longer remaining solely in the hands of clergymen or Christian laymen as a topic of examination. As it did so scriptural interpretation eventually fell upon the rough and rocky shores of German Higher Criticism which flourished in the 1800s. The Higher Criticism school of interpretation was largely deconstructionist and revisionist and sought to interpret the Bible in terms of stages of development or as the product of diverse social, political, and cultural causes over a long period of time.

The general thought was that everything else had been put to a scientific methodology, so why not scriptural interpretation? As it turns out this was done to the exclusion of any consideration of divine revelation whatsoever, and that approach suited the intellectual attitude and temperament of academic learning in the field of "biblical studies" at that time with few objections. One notable, early exception was the more conservative scholarly works of Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802-1869), but unfortunately he was going against the grain and trends of the times.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 08:26
Study books on discoveries in Biblical Archaeology PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 10 June 2013 20:19

Recently I made a video on YouTube about various reading resources on the topic of history and archaeology in the Bible. I wanted to make the video about some of the books in my personal library that I have used to educate myself about various discoveries in Biblical Archaeology and other topics. There are many works of biblical scholarship which still remain faithful to the text of the Bible and uphold its fidelity, accuracy, and reliability and I believe that realizing that is mostly a matter of being informed and educating one's self about such scholarly works that are out there.

The video is embedded below for your viewing convenience. Please feel free to comment on the video and leave some feedback on YouTube. I apologize for the occasional slips of the tongue in this video. I have some notes below on things that are referenced and discussed the video.


[source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE5xhU3wjw0]

The oldest Hebrew Scripture writing that I refer to in the video was written on two small silver amulets, rolled up like a scroll, that had the passage Numbers 6:24-26 inscribed upon them. They were discovered at Ketef Hinnom in the southwest of Jerusalem, and thus are referred as the Ketef Hinnom Amulets. The amulets were written paleo-Hebrew and date to the 7th century B.C., some 400 years earlier than the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls! I found a video here which discusses it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMIDCN8iErQ

Information on the Tel Dan Inscription/Stele: http://teldan.wordpress.com/house-of-david-inscription/

The books referenced in this video are listed below:

James K. Hoffmeier, "The Archaeology of the Bible" (Lion UK, 2008)

Kenneth Kitchen, "On the Reliability of the Old Testament" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. & Duane Garrett, "NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005)

Thomas V. Brisco, "Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History" (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999)

Kendell H. Easley, "Holman Illustrated Guide to Biblical History" (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers: 2003)

Anson F Rainey & R. Steven Notley, "The Sacred Bridge: Carta's Atlas of the Biblical World" (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006)

Martin G. Abegg, Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English" ( San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1999)

Last Updated on Monday, 10 June 2013 20:55
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