He who hears the shema drinks the shekar!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Power Politics


Two recent blog posts highlight for me the complexity and frustration with the 2008 election.

Lee Irons comments on the matter of executive power:

It’s disappointing that so few Republicans seem to care [about it] , but traditionally conservatives have been the ones upholding the Constitution, limiting presidential power, and defending civil liberties and the rule of law.

One place you really see this is the way Ron Paul gets treated by the Republican establishment. Just read a few pro-Republican pundits, and you'll see it soon enough. Paul is usually dismissed rather quickly under the conservative rhetoric that he is anti-American, anti-military, anti-War on terror, or (the
really popular one) just too radical in his politics to be a true Republican.

Such 'radical' remarks about Paul actually tell you more about the political machine than Paul himself. Paul's message is frankly very simple -- it is
pro-free market, pro-Constitution, and anti-government across the board. In other words, Paul is just too libertarian for the big-government ideology on the 'left'...and the increasingly big-government agenda on the 'right'! A great example of this is the way Republican diehards criticize Paul's consistent opposition to the Iraqi occupation. Note the way Paul gets lumped in with the leftist, anti-war machine; for some reason, it never really occurs to these people that Paul's rationale has absolutely nothing to do with leftist politics. His rationale for opposing Iraq (as far as I can tell) is: (a) we're involved in a prolonged conflict that really amounts to an unconstitutional 'war' and (b) it's costing the country billions of dollars to fund it.

The reason why Paul's message sounds too radical for people is because we've become too accustomed to letting big government run our lives...and that goes for Democrats and Republicans.

A great example of the 'big government' establishment surfaced in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination. Kim Riddlebarger was particularly 'disgusted' with the way the candidates from both sides of the fence handled themselves:

Is anyone else as as disgusted as I am at all the presidential campaigns for using the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto as a way to shamelessly tout their own supposed foreign policy credentials?

These guys (and a gal) have spent the last two days knocking each other over to get before a camera or a mic to pontificate about something they obviously know very little about. Unless you are already in the White House and privy to hard intelligence, you probably don't know squat about what really happened and who did the dastardly deed....

And we wonder why less than 50% of Americans vote? The cynicism shown by the lot of them is disgusting to me. And just why is it that we are going through this eleven months before the election?

As Riddlebarger remarks, Paul's response makes the most sense --
"We should mind our own business and stay out of supporting military dictators." No political spin....and (more importantly!) just good economics. And yet again, Paul gets blasted by the 'neocons' for being anti-American and anti-military because Paul is critical of American foreign policy.

I don't agree with
everything Paul says, but his message has a near-brutal consistency to it that is very appealing.....and no one in either party likes it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Last Minute Christmas Shopping?


Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame) provides a rather compelling reason why
consumers might not want to be so quick in buying gift cards for that hard-to-shop-for person:

[F]or the merchant...the gift card is a godsend. Just think of it: In the weeks leading up to Christmas, millions of people visit your store or Web site and hand you billions of dollars in exchange for nothing more than a plastic I.O.U. that may never even be redeemed. Best Buy, for instance, earned $16 million last year in gift-card “breakage,” which is the industry’s term for card value that was bought but never redeemed. Then there’s what retailers call “upspending”: most customers who do use their gift cards spend some of their own money to buy merchandise that is more expensive than the value of the card.

For the giver, meanwhile, a gift card could hardly be easier. But most economists would argue that if a gift card is so transparently good for the giver, it is necessarily bad for the recipient: the fact that it can be bought so easily signals to the recipient that the giver didn’t put much effort into the gift.

In the end, the value of any gift is overwhelmingly dependent on the nature of the relationship between giver and recipient. The economist Alex Tabarrok, writing recently on the Marginal Revolution blog, put an even finer point on this fact, noting that each of us has many “selves,” including a “wild self,” and that “we want the wild self in someone else to be wild about us.” His advice? “If you want to please the economist in me, send me cash. If you want to please my wild self (you know who you are!), use your imagination.”

So next year, if you need a gift for a strict rationalist, consider cash. If you want to appeal to someone’s wild self, you’ll have to use your imagination. And if you’re hoping to send a little something extra to the shareholders of Best Buy or the Gap or Tiffany, consider a gift card.


This makes sense to me on a number of levels, but I'll pick just one.

Vicky and I registered this past spring at Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond primarily because
that's just what engaged couples do...and not so much because we really needed the things we registered for. If we had strictly operated on the later premise, our registry would have actually been quite small. The kinds of things (truth be told) that we were really interested in were things like a modest couch/recliner set....and who is going to give that for a wedding gift!

Had we been moving into a 3 bedroom, 1600 sq. feet home, together then there likely would have been all sorts of things we would have needed to 'fill in' the place. But we were going in the opposite direction -- from my studio and her one bedroom apartment to just her apartment!! Needless to say, we quickly realized that wasn't going to work....so we moved into a more spacious 2 bedroom place a few blocks away. Still, in typical California fashion, it's hardly booming with space.

So what happened? We ended up with a lot of nice gifts that we simply didn't have room for! What do you do then? Well, one option would be to store it all in the mother-in-law's house 25 miles away. I actually know someone who married fairly recently -- I won't say who -- who privately confessed to doing this very thing. But, being the 'cruel' people that we are, Vicky and I decided to take the insensitive route -- "
Let just return the stuff we don't really need...and exchange it for cold hard cash!"

Which brings us back to the point being made by Dubner. I've admittedly fallen into the 'gift card' myth many times in the past, but the evidence doesn't lie. There's a reason Best Buy parades gift cards before you on virtually every isle -- they know many of those $50 gifts are really just gifts
to Best Buy, not the consumer who receives to card.

The next time you think about giving a 'gift card' for a wedding or Christmas gift, why not just give them cold hard cash instead? It's certainly not less-thoughtful, and it actually provides more immediate-yet-flexible liquidity. I doubt too many Koreans have read
Freakonomics, and I'm not sure I fully understand the complexity of motives behind Asian-wedding gift giving....but they clearly understand that most of us low and middle income people will always benefit (and enjoy!) the most from monetary gifts.

So Bah humbug to gift cards, I say!

[And if you are reading this blog and you were one of the people who gave us a non-monetary gift for our wedding, we truly appreciate your decision to give whatever you gave! Rather, this commentary really has to do with my own public 'repenting' of all the gift cards I've given people as gifts in the past!]

_____________________________________________________

Postscript: Dubner has a great piece released yesterday on charity giving. His blurb about tithing didn't strike me as particularly revolutionary, but it did occur to me how manditory tithing cuts against the whole theonomic rationale (i.e. law) behind tithing. Anyone interested in a soft-pedaled form of 'Christianized Socialism'? Of course, I learned from a good friend a couple years ago that there are actually Reformed church sessions that think the entire congregation should give all of their goods/possessions to the session, only to have the sessions distribute it as needed. What a grand idea: Reformed charity in the form of Christian communism! Seriously....who can make this stuff up?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Problem with American Education

One of my favorite libertarian economists, Walter E. Williams, comments on the demise of public education:
American education will never be improved until we address one of the problems seen as too delicate to discuss. That problem is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have graduated with an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. As such, they are home to the least able students and professors with the lowest academic respect. Were we serious about efforts to improve public education, one of the first things we would do is eliminate schools of education.
One thing I like about Williams is that he is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Williams is responding a recent report that found 15-year old American students ranked 33rd in math literacy among industrialized nations (and 27th in science). And, as usual, we are so accustomed to throwing government money at everything that invaribly the answer becomes spending more tax-payer money on education.

Virtually everyone Christian I know teaching in the public school system has in one way or another confessed that Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' has been a colossal failure. Obama wants to allocate another $18 billion to reform federal education. Is there any indication this is going to actually work, given our track record?

The question of a child's education has become a boiling point in most conservative, evangelical churches (
especially of the Reformed variety). Especially over the last 3 decades, the condemnation of the public school system has taken an increasing religious/theological direction, perhaps due to certain theocratic presuppositions that have gained momentum on the Christian-culture horizon. But as one who finds most of those arguments dubious, what should one do?

I think Williams provides a much more compelling rationale for why Christians parents might want to look into other educational options....and not for the usual
religious reasons. Could it be that an individual might want to pursue private, Christian, Charter, or even home schooling options for the simple reason that public education is more and more a vastly inferior product? [Wow, such an 'un-spiritual' reason!]

Williams somewhat humorously notes, "Mathematics, more than any other subject, is culturally neutral. The square root of 16 is 4 whether you're Asian, European or African, or even Plutonian or Martian." Might we add to that list
Christian?

[Kuyperian backlash, anyone?]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friday Night Lights

It's funny what at TV show will do to a native Californian's perception of high school football in Texas. Admittedly, I've only seen one episode of Friday Night Lights thus far. This is just a wild guess, but by gut tells me that most people back in Texas find this show rather humorous...if they have even seen it at all. That's because most of them have little interest in what Hollywood thinks Texas football looks like, when they can enjoy the real thing for themselves!

While I've thoroughly been 'corrupted' by life on the West Coast, the two parts of Texas life that I miss enjoying are (a) family/friends and (b) the atmosphere of High School football. Of course, it didn't hurt that I went to a high school (Katy High School) that has won three state titles in the Class 5A (the state's largest) section since 1996.

This year, they are 15-0, ranked as high as No. 2 in the country by some polls, and now get their chance this weekend to win yet another state championship against Pflugerville in the Alamodome (San Antonio). This is what their playoff domination has looked like so far (in chronological order):
Katy 58 - Strake Jesuit 18
Katy 42 - Houston Madison 8
Katy 30 - Pasadena Memorial 14
Katy 42 - Clements 0
Katy 66 - San Antonio Madison 21

Sorry to gloat, but I guess it doesn't bode well to be named 'Madison' this year! :-) Keep in mind Clements was 13-o coming into their meeting with the Tigers; it's even better when your older cousin graduated from the school on the losing end! :-) And it's not all that often that your team breaks the school record for the most points scored in a game (66) this deep in the playoffs.

I would not want to be rooting for Pflugerville (12-3) this weekend!

It remains to be seen where star RB Aundre Dean (seen below) will end up. He verbally committed to UCLA this past Spring, but the rumor is that he would go somewhere else if Karl Dorrell was fired as the Bruin head coach (which happened on Dec. 3). Bummer, Bruin fans!


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Wright View of Penal Substitution?

Many people know by now the name, Steve Chalke, in connection with the doctrine of Christ's penal substitutionary atonement. In his 2004 The Lost Message of Jesus, Chalke in a not-so-subtle way argued that the whole classic notion of 'penal substitution' amounts to a form of "cosmic child abuse." While I was busy figuring out 'the Canadian life' and immersing myself in OT historical narratives, Chalke's book stirred up quite the hornet's nest across the pond. Books have been written in response and all sorts of responses have come and gone.

Lee Irons pointed out to me a couple months ago about the frequency you see the word 'violence' in books and articles these days in broad evangelical circles; it's all part of a recent trend seeking to recast (if not openly deny!) 'penal substition' because it seems to advocate a message that 'postmoderns' don't wont to hear or can't understand.

Like many of these modern theological issues, N.T. Wright injected himself into the discussion earlier this year via a 'quasi-defense' of Chalke's book. While not endorsing the book per se, he certainly wasted no time blasting those critical of Chalke. As with many of these issues, the questions always seems to come down to: What does Wright
really believe about ________?

In November 2007, Wright was interviewed while visiting Asbury Seminary, and the full transcript of that interview can be found here. There's plenty here to comment on, but I'll limit it to his brief discussion about penal substition. Two quotes worth noting:

And the one-liner which he [Chalke] drops in was not, in its origin, a way of saying, “I don’t believe in penal substitution.” It was a way of ruling out of court to one side a distortion of penal substitution which he has heard, which I have heard – the idea of God simply wanting to punish somebody and not caring too much who it was. Oh, well, here’s an innocent man. Let’s punish him and that will be alright, won’t it? Sadly, there are many Christians who preach the doctrine like that.

and then a little bit farther down:

So we have to understand the doctrine of penal substitution within the Scriptural framework, within which it makes sense, rather than within this very low grade thing that I’ve been a naughty boy, God wants to punish me, and for some reason, he punishes someone else, so phew! I’m alright. OK. For a five-year-old, that’s fine. That’ll maybe do it. But, actually let’s grow up! We’re not talking about five-year-olds here; we’re talking about grown men and women who ought to know better, to be honest.

I'll grant for sake of argument that there are probably some Christian ministers that preach the doctrine of 'penal substitution' in an unbiblical way. But when Wright speaks of this "...idea of God simply wanting to punish somebody and not caring too much who it was," I honestly have to wonder just
who he's speaking of. If this version of 'penal substitution' is out there, I certainly don't know where it exists, let alone who is teaching it. Even the most committed 'hell, fire, and brimstone' preacher that beats people up with the Law -- a significant error in its own right -- would not recognize this sort of caricature that Wright imagines. The fact that Wright would seek to defend Chalke on the premise of a non-existent view of penal substitution is quite troubling, even taking into account the quotations Jim Hamilton and Trevin Wax have gathered to demonstrate that Wright personally holds to a doctrine of penal substitution.

When you put it all together, I don't have a whole lot of confidence that N.T. Wright understands
penal substitution correctly, for the simple reason that all these loose ends in Wright-speak simply do not cohere. I'm inclined to think the Oakhill men (Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach) are surely right to identify their disagreement with Wright as a "methodological one" at its core. In other words, this cannot be written off simply as a matter of emphasizing one thing more than the other; Wright seems to be tolerating a fundamentally different way we should think about the atonement.

For a nice survey of the classic doctrine of penal substitution, check out J.I. Packer's recent article here. One can't help but notice a substantial difference between these two Anglicans! Packer is certainly aware of these theological developments in his native homeland, and holds nothing back in exposing precisely why this notion of 'cosmic child abuse' is wrong on just about every level.

UPDATE (Dec. 20): You can read Lee Irons' further elaboration on this post at the Upper Register blog.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Note From Managment....


Work in Progress! Sorry for the mess, as I try to update my blog!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lu-0 Lu-0 Lu-0


Three straight shut outs by Luongo is good news for Vancouver. It's also great news for my hockey pool....hehe! I'm still not convinced the Canucks have enough on the offensive end to make it deep into the playoffs, as they found out last season when they ran into Anaheim.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Too many books, anyone?

Andrew T. B. McGowan makes an interesting comment about Thomas Boston's federal theology:

The fact that Boston had so few books clearly meant that he devoured whatever came into his hand, and his treatises on the covenant of works and the covenant of grace display a familiarity with Witsius.
(pg. 9)

I must confess that it's easy as a covenant theologian to run like gangbusters to the later half of McGowan's statement. And what's not to like about that! McGowan goes on to argue that the formative influences on Boston's covenant theology stem from those Reformed luminaries known as Ursinus, Beza, and Witsius. Pretty good company!!

However, it's the first part of McGowan's comment that really caught my attention. That is, the fact that Boston had "so few books"! McGowan footnotes this to something found in Boston's
Memoirs (so lets assume for sake of argument that it's true). Without extrapolating into *why* Boston acquired "so few books," this struck an interesting personal chord into my own book-reading and buying habits.

Reformed theology has long been known for its love of reading books. With that often comes a love for collecting books and buttressing one's library. There may not be a blatant attempt to impress others with our vast collection of reading...but we certainly don't seem to mind when people think we are extremely well-read! I remember the vast array of books I started to collect as an undergraduate and then the year I took off before I started at Westminster. I was a book hound! The art of learning how to read through that process was immeasurable, especially going into seminary and then more graduate school, where you are forced to assimilate large amounts of data in a short period of time.

However, what I've learned through it all is simply this: at least 95% of the books being published out there in theology, Biblical studies, and the like are simply not worth much more than a quick glance, only to be filed away to the bin of the 'books that made it to print that probably should have gone into the doc shredder.'

When I moved to Canada in 2004, I sold (or gave away!) probably in the neighborhood of 80% of my library. It wasn't easy to part with a lot of those books that were part of the journey through college and seminary. At the time, my reason was largely pragmatic -- I didn't see the point in spending hundreds in shipping books postal rate, only to have them thrashed in the process!! Plus, I figured that most of these books I could re-purchase at some point in the future, if I decided that I really needed it again. And besides -- I had the Regent Library on hand to look up a reference or quote if really needed.

But the fact of the matter is that haven't missed hardly any of these books I gave away. In fact, I can't really think of one time where I've said to myself, "Why did I get rid of THAT book?" These were books that served their purpose along the way...but they were books that frankly would be filling space on my bookshelves, not to mention making it that much harder to move to and fro.

So my philosophy of book-buying has evolved quite a bit since I started seminary a decade ago. I still try to read as much as I can find the time....but the difference is that I am much more picky in the books that I will actually add to my personal library. Of course, there are other factors involved here, like the fact that I've had reasonably good theological libraries in Vancouver and now Berkeley to consult when needed. Perhaps wisdom taught me that you don't need to buy every book under the sun, when you can simply consult it down the street.

And that brings us back to Boston's "so few books"! Suddenly, the lack of books on the shelf doesn't seem like all that bad of an idea. On that rare occasion that a book is actually worth more than a single read, then perhaps you have a book worth purchasing for your library! Devour the really good books again and again....and skim quickly through the rest!

How many books on your shelf would you be willing to part with? What percentage of your books have not been touched on your bookshelves in the last 3 years? [Moving or re-arranging doesn't count!]

NOTE: I just discovered the top 10 things to say after returning home from a conference book plunder! Hilarious -- it proves my point exactly!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Random things around the web...

[HT: Upper Register]
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Chris Tilling on the interesting hermeneutical connection between Joel Osteen and Rudolf Bultmann. For those wanting a more detailed analysis of Osteen's latest book, Mike Horton has one here.
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From the Textual-critical garage of Dan Wallace:
Wallace's Pop Quiz (and the answer key)
AD or CE?
Pauline Scatology
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Lee Irons helps us to understand what Dr. Kline really means. Lee also put one of his Ph.D seminar papers up dealing with Romans 2:13. An excellent exegetical critique and interaction with the New Perspective's reading of Romans! We really need more stuff like this.
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Mark Jones (a guy who came in just after I left Faith PCA in Vancouver) has an excellent summary of John Owen's understanding of Justification by Faith Alone and judgment according to works. There's a lot of other good stuff mixed in here, especially in relation to Richard Baxter's erroneous understanding of Justification. Mark did his MA thesis on Owen and is currently working towards a Ph.D (Leiden Univ. in the Netherlands) on the topic of the pactum salutis in Thomas Goodwin. Congrats to Mark and his recently installation as the pastor of Faith.
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Andrew Compton (Ph.D cand. in OT at Claremont Graduate School) summarizes nicely the problems of the diachronic, source critical methodology that has harangued so much of Old Testament studies for the last 120 years.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Vosian Prolegomena


Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949)


The first published work from the 'giant' of Biblical Theology at Old Princeton was a manuscript entitled, The Mosaic Origin of the Pentateuchal Codes (1886). Remarkably, Vos wrote the work when he was only 23 years old, and he won the Hebrew fellowship award for the work at his graduation from Princeton in 1885.

Vos' work was a direct critique of Julius Wellhausen's Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (1883), a bombshell-work that provided the first extensive 'blueprint' [while drawing extensively from Karl Graf's earlier Die geschichtlichen B├╝cher des Alten Testaments (1866)] of what would eventually become known as the 'documentary hypothesis' (DH) theory of the Pentateuch's origin. While virtually no one today would hold to the views as expressed by Wellhausen, the critical methodology employed would go on to dominate the academy of Old Testament and Semitic studies in the 20th century. Every time you read an OT book that speaks about a Jahwist ("J") , an Elohist ("E") a Deuteronomist ("D"), or a Priestly ("P") emphasis on any given text, it is all essentially a footnote to the well of Wellhausen. Gordon Wenham noted in 1996 that "[t]his hypothesis is expounded in every introduction to the OT."

Without summarizing here all the arguments that Vos mounts against the DH, his critique summarizes nicely the problem inherent in the whole trajectory of source criticism. From the outset, he recognized that this matter was no trivial concern of text-critical minutia; rather Wellhausen's ideas touch upon "...the [very] heart of the Christian conception of revelation" (Chapter 1). William Henry Green (Vos' OT professor at Princeton) notes in the book's introduction, "The issue involved is not merely that of the authorship of a given production, nor whether particular institutions took their rise in one century or in another. It is a question of the veracity of the sacred volume from first to last. The question is fundamentally that between rationalism and supernatural religion." Cornelius Van Til, a generation later, would no doubt be impressed with the kind of 'transcendental' critique from his fellow Dutchman and former teacher.

We shall quote the entirety of Chapter 4 here (the shortest chapter in the book, one paragraph in the original), entitled 'Incompleteness of the Codes':

"If we expect in the Mosaic Codes [i.e. Laws] a complete legislation in the modern sense of the word, we shall surely be disappointed. As modern society, or even Roman life, shaped itself, it presents many a feature in its legislation for which the Codes of ancient Israel have no correlative. But the principle of Israel’s constitution was radically different. The theocratic idea made every thing subordinate to itself; and the law presents this idea clothed in outward, ceremonial and civil forms. Accordingly, whatever is not so directly related to this one central conception as to be molded and transformed by it, is omitted, and left to existing usage or future provision. In this respect, the law does not preclude development or increase. It has a spirit as well as a letter, however the most recent critics may emphasize the latter, in order to substitute the notion of development for the former. On this point, diametrically opposite objections meet; for, whilst one finds fault with the law on account of incompleteness, another finds it far too elaborate and perfect for a nomad tribe just awaking to the first consciousness of a life of civilization. Both extremes may supplement and correct each other. We should constantly keep in mind, that the Mosaic legislation was intended for a peculiar people, that had a peculiar destiny. It was to live, to a large extent, isolated, and the more it could be protected against contamination by foreign influences, the better. There was no need of a Code that would provide for all the complicated relations that arise from a lively intercourse with surrounding peoples. On the other hand, the agrarian principle, on which the civil law proceeded, secured to every member of the Covenant-people an equal share in the promised inheritance of Canaan. It is obvious how largely this tended to simplify both public and private life among the chosen people. It would be historically wrong to institute a comparison between the Mosaic Codes and the Roman body of law. The Romans were the people of law par excellence: in Israel the law was a subordinate means to a higher and spiritual end, subservient and adapted to the peculiar position which the nation occupied, and to its unique calling in the history of God’s Church" (51-2, emphasis mine).

Here we see in condensed form what Vos will later expand on in his Biblical Theology. The basic warf and woof of Vos' covenantal structuring of redemption, particularly as it relates to the Mosaic Covenant, seems to be there from the very beginning.

A concise and yet devastating blow to the overarching theonomic approach to the Old Testament.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Pinnock of Pitfalls


"Everyone who believes in God at all
believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow."

--C. S. Lewis

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A libertarian interlude....


Admittedly, I don't have a lot of extra time to follow every whim of the US political landscape. Perhaps that old joke -- Q: How do you know when politician is lying? A: His mouth is open! -- rings all too true in the current climate.

However, the more I hear blurbs and interviews here and there from Ron Paul, the more that I think he's exactly the kind of person to get the message of 'libertarianism' out to the masses.

Do I think he's going to win the Republican ticket? No. I think CNN, Fox, and every other network 'in between' will see to it that Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson get all of the press....and hence the ticket to square off against Hillary or Obama. But as Letterman noted the other night, you know things aren't quite right in the Republican party when "...Rudolph Giuliani had three wives and he's not the Mormon candidate." And does anyone seriously think any of the Republican's 'Big 3' can take down Obama or Hillary?

That's what makes Paul such an intriguing candidate. The Republicans know they have a monumental task ahead of them, with the general polls showing disapproval of Bush. Where do the Republicans go now? If they run on a 'Bush legacy' ticket, they know they are going to lose....and you can really sense that when you see Romney and Giuliani try to answer questions about what they would do the same and what they would change. They strike me as not really knowing what to say!

But Paul is very clear about where he stands....and (in rather strange turn of events) the Republicans have no idea what to do with him.

If you really want to put up a viable opponent to Hillary or Obama, I think Paul might be the only guy who's capable of doing so. If the Republicans don't know what to do with him now, the Democrats won't have a clue come next year! The tiring 'anti-Iraq occupation' rhetoric from Hillary and Obama simply won't work against Paul....since Paul is the only House Representative that didn't vote to send troops over in the first place!

Of course, the problem is that I'm not sure the Republican party is ready yet to embrace a truly anti-big government platform like that of a libertarian like Paul.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Before there were 4 Spiritual Laws....


No, you can't make this stuff up.....

[HT: Andy Naselli]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Random Tidbits...

*I concur with Simon Gathercole when he states that Stephen Westerholm is head and shoulders above almost everyone else when it comes to understanding the Apostle Paul. His 'Israel's Law and the Church's Faith' needs to be added to any and all classes dealing with Pauline Theology.

*If I were a Cal student, I think I would seriously consider starting a student club, 'Cut the Oaks'! Let's see how serious they really are about this whole free speech thing.

*Warning: N.T. Wright post coming up in the future....and it might not be exactly what you expect. Or maybe it will....stay tuned.

*I finally understand why new couches can be expensive. After a plethora of hand-me-down couches stretching back to 1999, we finally have a new couch and matching recliner....and they are actually comfortable to sit on!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Can you say....'etymological fallacy'??

Here's a great reason why I have absolutely no interest in being a seminary President some day!

Somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that Mark Noll and George Marsden are not going to receive any invitations to speak for the Vision Forum anytime soon!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion



A very clever 'transcendental' (of sorts) critique of Dawkins. This is very funny, worth a 6 minute listen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cup of Wrath...Redux

Some important questions were raised by my friend Cliff in my previous blog entry. Rather than tack a response on that thread, I felt like I should further elaborate on where my thinking was going at the end of the post....where I admittedly took a rather abrupt detour from talking about 'the cup of wrath' to registering a complaint about Reformed preaching that seems to talk about 'brokenness' all the time.

First, anyone that might use the 'cup of wrath' as a means to terrorize a person's conscience would misunderstand the point of the prophetic image in the first place. To preach terror without grace is neither 'prophetic' in the Old or New Testament sense of the office. Obadiah is a good example of that, where you have judgment on Edom followed by God's promise of restoration. The emphasis for Obadiah seems to fall on the former (in terms of focus)....but I wouldn't flippantly deduce from this that our preaching should equally fall on the former. Rather, the movement of the book *in the whole* is perhaps a better way to conceptualize the total message we're trying to convey.

Second, there is certainly room for pastoral sensitivity in bringing the Scriptures to bear to a person's sitz en leben. If a woman calls you up in a frantic fury because she's come home to discover her husband in bed with another woman, clearly this is probably not a good time to immediately launch into a diatribe about how God's wrath burns against the whoring adulterer! There is certainly a 'brokenness' here that needs a response of grace, comfort, patience and prayer. Thus, I'm not out to minimize 'brokenness' as a pastoral ministry reality that has to be dealt with on a regular basis.

Third, I suppose what I am after is the tendency to take a perfectly valid topic that the Bible addresses and make that the main lens in which whole books, if not the entire Bible, can be read through! It just so happens in this case, my criticism was directed towards the usage of 'brokenness' as a category....but there are many other things we could add to that as well. For example, the person that tries to read justification into every Pauline chapter; the person that turns I and II Timothy into a training manual for church leaders; or the Reformed minister that seems to find a polemic against Arminianism in each and every sermon he preaches.

To that list, we could also add those who do Christian counseling, where there's a danger in turning the Bible into a 'problem solving' manual to the neglect of understanding the Bible's overarching drama of redemption. We could mention someone who works for a local chapter of a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and makes it sound like the main thrust of the Church today is to stop abortion. And on the list could go....

In other words, there's always the temptation to reduce the Bible to certain categories (or, if you will, applications!) to the exclusion of others. One's focus, interest, and sitz en leben dictate the way in which the Scriptures are approached.

How do we avoid such pitfalls? I think one way forward is through the usage of the lectio continua -- that is, preaching through whole books of the Bible, unit by unit. Hugh Old notes in this regard:
One of the strengths of Reformed Christianity is its appreciation of the Old Testament. As I see it, a minister needs to give much loving attention to the various genres of Old Testament literature. The insights of the historical books, the prophets, and the poetry all need to be explored.
I think the thrust of Old's focus is right, and not simply because I have a particular interest in studying Hebrew. Yet my fear is that Reformed Christianity in the current scene does not properly appreciate the Old Testament, precisely because one's limited focus -- however Biblically applicable it may be -- hinders their reading of the Bible.

Old adds:
Both the lectionary and the lectio continua traditions have been replaced in many Reformed churches by sermon series based on themes chosen by a minister. Such series may or may not deal with the "difficult" passages or books or issues that one would have to deal with in the lectionary or lectio continua approach.
I think this gets at some of what concerns me -- that is, a thematic approach to preaching. There are times where I'm not always sure if the 'theme' is controlling the text OR if the text is dictating the theme. I have no problem with addressing themes....but I find it better to do so within the context of working through an entire book.

I could certainly say more, but I think that fills in some of what I had in mind from the previous entry.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Cup of Wrath...Anyone?

While working through Obadiah during our summer Sunday School series, I made the decision a couple of Sundays ago to do an excursus on Obadiah 16; that is, how does the image of 'drinking' tie into the 'cup of wrath' metaphor in the eschatological outlook of the Bible?

It's a massive topic, one that occupies no small place in the Hebrew prophets (e.g. the 'cup of wrath' image -- if not the actual phrasing -- appears in over 30 places). However, it's a helpful example of seeing how such Biblical metaphors (e.g. what Dr. Kline labelled 'prophetic idiom') function within the prosecutorial-lawsuit focus of the prophets.

In other words, the 'cup' is an idiomatic way of expressing the dual sanctions (blessing and cursing, Deut. 28) of the covenant -- a sign of fullness/blessing from YHWH for the righteous (Psalm 23:5) and a sign of divine judgment from YHWH against the wicked (Psalm 73:5).

When Jesus asks Peter, "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" (John 18:11), it's quite clear what 'cup' Jesus is talking about -- the cup of God's divine wrath. Of particular interest is the way all three Synoptic Gospels record the institution of the Lord's Supper and the passing of the 'cup' (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14ff) in juxtaposition with Jesus' agonizing Gethsemane prayer to let the 'cup' pass (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Coincidence??

What emerges from these Gospel accounts of Jesus' final moments prior to his crucifixion
is the way that Jesus brings together these two strands, these two sanctions of the covenant -- blessing and cursing -- in one grand eschatological pronouncement. The cup of wrath is transformed into a cup of grace. Why? Because Christ bears the cup of wrath for his people so that they might experience the cup of grace!

There is an inseparable correlation between the two -- they hang or fall together. If you get rid of or redefine the category of 'covenantal wrath' as viewed from the vantage point of the 'cup' metaphor, then you are inevitably going to misunderstand if not altogether obscure the basis for God's granting 'covenantal grace' to His people.

Here is one key example of why you can't reduce all covenants to pure grace. Certainly the outcome of Jesus' bearing the Father's wrath is one of 'grace' to us (the application of redemption). But in looking at the covenant between Jesus and the Father (the pactum salutis), it's difficult to understand how drinking the cup of divine wrath can be interpreted as being 'graced' by the Father. That certainly would be a rather strange definition of grace!

This also helps illumine the context of Paul's lengthy treatment on the Lord's Supper in I Corinthians 10-11, particularly as it relates to the dual covenantal sanctions. Paul describes the Supper as a 'cup of blessing' for the Church (I Cor. 10:16). Further, he equates the cup with the New Covenant (I Cor 11:25). So far so good...but it's not the end of the story. So much of the 'discussion' in Chapter 11 has centered on what Paul means by 'examine himself' (11:28) and 'discern the body' (11:29). However we take Paul's language in vs. 27-29, it's clear that whoever this person is that drinks in an unworthy manner, that person drinks judgment on himself. How can something be a 'cup of blessing' and a 'cup of judgment'? Could it be that Paul is using 'dual sanctions' of the 'cup' in I Cor. 10-11 as a way to explain the antithesis he previously articulates between 'the cup of the Lord' and 'the cup of demons' (I Cor. 10:22)?

Whatever be the precise nuance in I Corinthians, the 'cup' image returns in full force when we come to John's Apocalypse. This is not surprising, given the way in which Revelation builds upon, interprets, and Christologizes the prophetic works of the OT. Chapters 13-19 make particularly good use of the 'cup of wrath' image, as the cycles of judgment escalate towards the final judgment! What Obadiah sees from far off, John sees from a closer vantage point...but they both have the 'end' in view.

To conclude on a practical note, some one approached me after this particularly Sunday School class and made the comment, "Now that's a subject that I would have never heard at ________ Church. The word they always liked to use was 'brokenness'! You might have heard a sermon about drinking wine at ________ Church, but you would have never heard a sermon about drinking wrath. "

As I thought about this further, particularly as it relates to a certain mindset in some Reformed circles, it occurred to me that this so-called 'recovery of the arts' among Reformed Christians is actually muted by (post)modern, theological reductionism. That is, they like the Old Testament's artistic images that describe 'brokenness' and God's delivering us out of such 'brokenness'. But they don't particularly like the Old Testament's artistic images that describe the cup of wrath as a drunk woman who gnaws on shards and tears out her whoring breasts (Ezekiel 23:32-34).

Part of the brilliance in the OT prophetic literature is its ability to use idiomatic metaphors to enlighten the *fullness* of God's covenantal dealings with the world! This is particularly true when you look at the 'cup of wrath' -- the idiom helps to put human flesh on the notion of 'divine wrath' (which easily becomes theologically abstract without it).

It's not that the imagery/metaphor of 'brokennes' is a bad one or an unimportant one (cf. Psalm 109:16, Isa. 30:26, and more). The problem is that it's not a branch strong enough to carry the theological weight placed upon it by those that seem to refer to it all the time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Revisiting Christian Apologetics....A Brief Book Review

I've lost count all of the times I've been asked about by view of Christian apologetics.

Sometimes people are looking for philosophically sophisticated answers to common objections. Others come looking for a list of sure-fire 'evidences' that will convinced their unbelieving friends.

I realized this in a new way back in early 2004, when my friend Brenda asked me to present something akin to an 'Apologetics Workshop 101' for a group of college students at UCSD. They were a good group of kids, but what I noticed is that almost all of the questions the kids asked fell in one of these 2 groups.

That's when I realized that modern evangelicalism has conditioned people to think of 'apologetics' in a completely wrong manner. This explains largely why I just don't get excited when I see a new book coming out on apologetics...because so many of them (if not most of them!) are just not worth my time for perusal.

However, the recent publication of Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics (ed. Oliphant and Tipton) is a happy exception, a book that cuts through the confusion caused by so much of modern Christian thinking on the discipline of apologetics. Oliphant and Tipton explain the following near the beginning:

"Because the defense of Christianity has, at least historically, taken place in the context of philosophical objections to the faith, apologetics has taken on a reputation as, in the first place, a philosophical discipline. Much of the history of apologetics has been concerned to show, philosophically, that Christianity can stand intellectual scrutiny and emerge without too many bruises.

The trend, however, has had the effect, directly or indirectly, of undermining the discipline itself. It has led many believe, and some to argue, that the most difficult issues of philosophical theology or theological philosophy should be engaged only by those philosophically trained, those whose minds have been able to meld together the best of theology with the best of philosophy." (p. 2)


Here's a rather condensed summary for the precise reason I have virtually no interest in 'apologetics' books...because they seem more intent on dealing in the realm of philosophical abstraction that Biblical argumentation.

If you want a book with some great articles that suppliment good apologetics with fresh exegetical insists, this book succeeds in ways that few (if any) in the past have fared.

Gaffin's exegesis of I Cor. 2:6ff. (Chapter 1), Tipton's look at the Apostle Paul's Mars Hill defense (Chapter 2), and Tipton's redemptive-historical reflection on Paul's Christology argument in Colossians 1 & 2 (Chapter 5) are three of the chief highlights that stand out, particularly because they refuse to deal in the realm of theological abstractionism that's devoid of careful textual consideration.

Get this book and read it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wedding photos....Part 1

Wedding 02.jpg

These shots were taken from my Uncle and a few other family members.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mashleymorgan/

I'll try to post some of my 'official' photos here when I get a chance. The came in this last week, and they are absolutely marvelous!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pope Anathema IX

A little encouragement, courtesy of the Vatican.

It's always good to know as a Christ-professing Protestant pilgrim, there are people out there who think you are in far *worse* Spiritual condition than you actually are.

Can you say..."Arrivederci, Vatican II!"???

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's amazing to think....

When I started college (1992), no one had heard of the internet. Our 'chat rooms' were the student lounges and cafeterias. Our 'facebooks' were black-and-white printed directories. 'Aim' was a nickname for my little sister. Our 'text messaging' used real lead and ink.

When I started seminary (1997), I can remember only 3 or 4 guys having laptops...and only one with a cell phone.

A lot can happen in 15 years...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We're Back!



Apart from the usual 'wedding drama'...everything went great. So many helpers made it all possible that we hardly know where to begin our thanks!

Things are slowly returning to normal! I'll throw some marriage photos together when they start trickling in; we should have some great one's from Vicky's cousin. The pair above are ones that Cliff Mak took a month prior to our wedding.

Thanks for everyone that could make it; no worries to those that couldn't.
And an extra set of thanks for all of the generou$ gift$!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Roman Catholic weighs in on the Federal Vision....

Many of us who are concerned by some of what we are hearing out of 'Federal Vision' circles are routinely accused of trying to press their theological formulations to their logical conclusions. They would prefer we simply deal with what they are saying, not with whatever theological consequences are judged to result from them.

The difficulty with that line of argumentation stems from the fact that theology always has consequences. In fact, even the Federal Vision advocates understand that, as they 'critique' the current state of affairs in Reformed & Presbyterian circles. They routinely do more than simply state what their opposition says; rather, they press their opponents to their logical conclusions based largely on their own presupposed conclusions.

In other words, the FV understands the Van Tillian 'transcendental' critique all too well when they are are the one on the offensive. The problem is they don't like it when that same sort of 'transcendental' critique is done to them!

I have refrained from saying too much here about the Federal Vision, largely because there are plenty of other blogs you can visit if you want 'the latest and greatest' rancor hot off the press.

But I make an exception this time. Someone this morning forwarded me a link for one Taylor Marshall's blog site. Marshall is a Westminster East-trained, ex-PCA, ex-Episcopal, Roman Catholic convert.

Why bring up Marshall? Much has been made about Scott Hahn's departure from the Reformed faith to Rome being attributed to (in his own words!) the theology of Norman Shepherd in the past, with many arguing that Hahn is just an aberration and not true to Shepherd's theological trajectory.

But here we have another. Marshall is the latest installment of that slide from the Reformed faith to the Roman Catholic church. But more to the point, I think he understands what is at stake in the Federal Vision debates in a way I find myself concurring with. Hey, see, I can agree with a thorough-going Roman Catholic after all, even if I don't agree with his being drawn to something 'robustly Biblical'! Marshall concludes:

Ultimately, I think that younger Presbyterians will gravitate toward what the Federal Vision offers. Many will sink their teeth into it and many will find it wanting. Many will discover that the Catholic Church is their true home, and many will discover her in a great moment of joy. This Federal Vision is really only a peek into the keyhole of the Catholic Church. The Federal Visionist has a vision of the beautiful things inside, but they have not yet appreciated the warmth of a true home.

Click here for the entire article.

His description under 'What is the Federal Vision?' is remarkably accurate. Notice Marshall concludes that it has much more in common with Roman Catholic theology than traditional Reformed theology. Notice that Marshall understands exactly why the 'Presbyterian establishment' would be up in arms about it's theology.

Marshall is right about the recent draw that many Presbyterians have towards the FV. And many of those individuals will quickly find out: 'What the Federal Vision does, the Roman Catholic Church does much better.'

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Final Countdown....

Under 12 days now....wow, where does the time go? Seems like just yesterday I was proposing before I moved down from Vancouver. And to think we were actually thinking of doing the wedding in March! Eeeks!

My lack of attention to detail has been particularly evident these last couple of weeks. Missed graduations because of bad planning. It really hit me when I showed up to Tim's graduation party (from Cal) on Saturday, when I walked in and the first thing I remember hear out of Wayne's mouth, "You look out of it!" Yes, that's when I realized that I've been running from one thing to the next, trying to keep up with a fiancee who's much more organized than I. I think it might be time to get a that refurbished Palm for scheduling.

Stay tuned for details, wedding pics, etc.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A new kind of cross-cultural experience....

I've been fortunate enough to go on three different extended summer 'mission' trips of sorts -- one during HS to the Philippines, one during college to Kenya/Uganda, and one during Seminary to Uganda. Usually in preparation for these trips, there's a lot of talk about 'preparations' for 'cross-cultural awareness' -- much of which is blown way out of proportion, if not bordering on a complete waste of time. Apart from the obvious differences like a different language, no running water, currency exchange, the danger of malaria, or 'Africa time,' there's really not all that much to 'adjust' to. In all of my times oversees, I don't remember being adversely overrun with homesickness, stomach sickness, or that 'lost' sickness that many feel when entering a so-called 3rd-world country.

Not even living in Canada for two years and living in a neighborhood that was predominantly Chinese and Indian made me feel 'uncomfortable'!

Moving to 'LA LA' land from Texas to go to college? No big deal.

What about working at a food pantry, a trouble-teens house, a soup kitchen, and the like? No problem.

What about moving to Berkeley? Different, yes...but so what! I just roll with the punches and fit right in.

However, yesterday I finally had the over-arching sensation of what one missiologist called, 'cross-cultural confusion'. I was lost, shocked, bedazzled...yea, even a bit terrified. And interestingly, I only had to drive about 15 minutes down the road to discover such confusion.

Although I didn't need a passport for entry, I discovered there's a whole knew 'country' that goes by the name of Victoria. And, no, this new 'country' is not my fiancee, Vicky.

I'm sure lovely Vicky has many secrets that I will soon discover....but long before I met Vick, there was another Victoria in town....who had a whole truck load of 'secrets'!!

Yes, I have finally been exposed to world of women's lingerie!!!

To be perfectly fair, someone previously signed me up for the Victoria Secret's catalog while I was in seminary....under the name, Ashley Morgan. Never did find out who it was, although I have my suspicions!! That made for a nice laugh every few months, but nothing more.

But this time around, I had to actually learn what all of these things mean. For example, I learned that a 'merrywidow' is not an old lady who discovers new love at the age of 73. And I learned that a 'cami' is not something you wear to hide while playing paint ball in the forest.

[Trying to understand women's clothing sizes is hard enough. I'm convinced that some women long ago purposely came up with these odd 'numbers' just to confuse men trying to shop for their women. I mean, just think about it -- would a guy ever call something a 'Size 0'?? I rest my case.]

Suddenly, I remembered a joke from one of Bill Engvall's stand-up routines -- "I've imposed a new rule for my teenage daughter: the label on your panties better not be the biggest piece of material!" Now, it all made sense!

I just loved the over-eagerness of the employee girls to help me find what I was looking for. I almost felt like asking one of the girls, "Does my shirt have a sign on the back of it that says, 'Clueless Shopper!'?"

I have to lay some of the blame on the ladies that attended Vick's bridal shower last weekend. Listen, I don't know much about bridal showers...but one thing I know is that a few people are suppose to bring lingerie. So when Vick was a bit disappointed that she didn't get any, I decided I would have to take things in to my own hands....which might not have been such a good idea.

For now on, I'm buying online -- there are some stores where men just should not physically enter!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Meredith Kline (1922-2007)

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27, 44-45, ESV).

I have often wondered what the men on the road to Emmaus (not to mention Jesus own disciples!) must have been thinking to themselves when Jesus explained the vast contours of the Old Testament as speaking about himself.

I also wonder if it might have been faintly analogous to the new seminary student who feels like he has a decent grasp of the whole Bible…only to discover that was not the case after the first class of Meredith Kline’s Pentateuch course.

Wonder? Confusion? Excitement? Anger? Amazement?

If there was an ‘Emmaus Road’ event in the Westminster curriculum, it would have to be Dr. Kline’s Pentateuch class that all new students took in the Spring semester of their first year. I suspect many a student of Dr. Kline’s over the years can trace their own understanding of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings as beginning (in some sense) here. Many (including myself) have not been able to read the Bible the same ever since. Our minds were opened to understand the Scriptures!

When I started in the Fall of 1997, the build up was already beginning for Dr. Kline’s ‘decent’ upon Westminster California in the Spring. Upper classmen started telling us ‘newbies’ things like, “Prepare for the ‘Eschatological Submarine’!” or “Don’t sit on the front row in class, or the Glory Cloud might consume you!” I remember asking an upper classman where Dr. Kline spent the rest of the year, and the student responded: “Supposedly he has a house back East; but we think he’s actually recharging in the Upper Register.” [What is a new student suppose to make out of that?] I distinctively remember a number of first-year students saying they were going to try to get a jump start on the Spring semester by reading Professor Kline’s massvie Kingdom Prologue, the main textbook for the course. Note especially that word, try!

On the first day of class in the Spring, Dr. Kline proceeded into one of his ‘majestic’ prayers that would characterize the beginning of each one of his classes; and this surely gave credence to the rumor that Dr. Kline spent the rest of the year in the Upper Register! He soon announced that this was his 50th year of teaching, which only added to his aura. I recall looking around the room and saying to myself, “This guy has been teaching longer than any of us has been alive!”

Much has been made about the ‘wordy-hyphenated’(!) writing style we encountered in accessing Dr. Kline for the first time. For sake of brevity here, none such examples will be cited! However, for all the difficulties one encountered in reading Kline for the first time, I found his lectures extremely helpful at clarifying what we were trying to comprehend in Kingdom Prologue. I, along with a number of other students who had Dr. Kline as a professor, have commented on the difference in level of comprehension among those who only read Kline and those who were actually taught by him in the classroom. His ability to explain things via his near-frantic use of the chalkboard is something that only his students were able to encounter; however, in the midst of the chalk dust clarity came. I privately wonder if many who still have such a disparaging view of Dr. Kline would have that spirit of criticism if they had sat under his teaching for a semester or two.

In 1997, one of the big issues circling the campus (and our Reformed denominations at large) was the Framework interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. For many, this issue was (and still unfortunately is) the sin qua non of Dr. Kline’s theology. I have often thought it unfortunate that those who found themselves at odds at this point with Dr. Kline have often failed to consider whatever else Dr. Kline might have to say about the Bible. Such neglect is really to their own detriment, for it really fails to see the importance that Covenant Theology played in the overall thrust of Dr. Kline’s theological endeavors.

Never one to run from controversy, Dr. Kline always displayed cordiality towards those in the classroom who would openly challenge (and sometimes with a certain amount of hostility!) the views presented in the lectures. Kline never responded with vitriol or sarcasm but calmly attempted to answer the objections raised. There was one particularly memorable outburst in which a student rather rudely declared, “Dr. Kline, thank you for correcting God!” I fully expected that this student might have finally pushed Dr. Kline over the edge. And if there was ever a case for a professor to put his student in his place, this was it. But Dr. Kline politely said he was sorry that the student felt that way, and that he would be happy to take up some of those objections after class. If patience towards difficult and ignorant students had any meritorious value in final justification, then Dr. Kline might very well have set the bar so high that few others could achieve it. (Thankfully, his covenant theology new better than to trust in such Spirit-wrought patience!)

Conversations with Dr. Kline after class were always a strange combination of brilliance and humor. I recall telling him one day after class that I found out about a PCA church that was using his By Oath Consigned in their membership introduction class. He immediately shook his head, and in smiling disbelief retorted, “Oh, those poor people!” He also had a large number of quotable zingers, my favorite of which was: “Theonomists don’t want to evangelize the world; they want to destroy it.”

Now nearly a decade removed from Dr. Kline’s teaching, I’d like (in good Klinean fashion) to highlight ‘seven’ ways in which Dr. Kline’s teaching has been instrumental in my own life. [Note, they do not follow a triadic (3+3+1) pattern!]

First, I arrived at Westminster as something of a ‘recovering dispensationalist’! I had read and studied enough from within dispensationalism to realize that it was wrong, but I wasn’t really sure what should be put in its place. Dr. Kline provided the structure I needed to realize the errors of dispensational bifurcation without throwing away legitimate covenantal discontinuities in the process. Few (if any) understood the basic errors of Pre and Post-millennialism as well as Dr. Kline. Reflecting over the past 8 or so years on all of the covenantal confusion that persists under the broad umbrella of so-called Reformed theology, I realize now how insightful (and helpful) he was in helping me understand Covenant Theology was not an imposition of the Reformers but rather was the result of careful reflection of the Scriptures. And when detractors accuse Dr. Kline of being a ‘leaky-dispensationalist’, it makes me seriously doubt that they are reading him (or the Scriptures) carefully.

Second, Dr. Kline was always rigorously exegetical in his approach. Never one to simply rest on the laurels of century old Confessional documents, Dr. Kline was resolutely interested in explaining theology from the text within the larger redemptive-historical panorama of Scripture. His classes reinforced this method from start to finish. Dr. Kline’s insistence on being first and foremost Biblical has been an extremely valuable lesson, particular as I interact with Christian laymen, as well as Christian academics, who know very little about the Reformed Faith.

In many respects, Dr. Kline’s exegetical rigor came at precisely the time when my ‘historical traditionalism’ needed a good slap in the face. At a time that I was very much looking for theological stability in the glories of past church history (ancient, medieval, Reformation, post-Reformation, Modern, Postmodern, etc.), Dr. Kline stood as a stark reminder that all traditions must always subject themselves to exegetical scrutiny…even his own teaching. If anything this has given me a greater appreciation for our Reformation forefathers and their attention given over to expound the Scriptures.

Whether exploring of the oft-mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in his Images of the Spirit, the role that covenant plays in establishing the canon in The Structure of Biblical Authority, or the eschatology of Zechariah's night visions in Glory in our Midst, at every point Kline never failed to argue his point from the text of Scripture.

Third, Dr. Kline was passionate in defending the Protestant doctrine of Justification by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. These were doctrines that I would have heartily affirmed when I first set foot on the Westminster campus, but Dr. Kline explained these in all of their Biblical-Theological fullness. I’ve encountered a number of people since seminary that were convinced that Dr. Kline’s criticism of Norman Shepherd’s views of justification was personal, when in fact it was nothing of the sort. Dr. Kline had one unified interest: to speak clearly on the question of the grounds of the believer’s justification before God; and, conversely, to speak out against any theologies that might detract from clarity on justification.

In recounting the details of the Shepherd Controversy, Dr. Kline understood from the very beginning precisely what was at stake – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it was his covenantal understanding of the issues that made his contribution to the discussion so vital. I distinctively remember him explaining the importance of the ‘Covenant of Works’ insofar as it provides the covenantal backdrop for the active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer, and how Mr. Shepherd’s system of theology completely obliterates this. Interestingly, Dr. Kline first pointed out this error in Shepherd’s theology a quarter-century before Mr. Shepherd finally came around to explicitly denying Christ’s active obedience as part of the righteousness imputed to the believer. Dr. Kline’s understanding of the Scriptures within their Covenantal framework enabled him to see the logical end of errant theologies of justification, sometimes long before they realized it for themselves.

Fourth, Dr. Kline was the final lynch pin in convincing me of the paedobaptist position. I read John Murray’s Christian Baptism, as well as a few other standard books on the subject, prior to my coming to seminary. But none of those were successful in convincing me of the issue. Once Dr. Kline explained baptism within the dual sanctions of God’s covenantal dealings with man (e.g. By Oath Consigned), the ducks finally started to line up and make sense. Connecting baptism to the story of redemption made for a tour de force argument for paedobaptism. Few (if any) other works on the subject of baptism take notice of this, and his unique contribution on this very point makes so much sense out of NT passages that are difficult for many to understand.

Fifth, Dr. Kline modeled Reformed Old Testament scholarship in a way that was (and still is) so uncommon when you compare it to the hodge-podge of evangelical Old Testament scholarship done today. As one who continued on after my time at Westminster in the field of OT studies, it is virtually the universal norm that you have on one side the Semitic scholars who have precious little interest in theology, and on the other side you have the so-called ‘OT theologians’ who abstract interesting propositions without any careful examination of the text. Thankfully, Dr. Kline knew better than to divorce theology from Semitics. He was rigorous in his demands of students to know the Hebrew from the passages we were covering in class. I remember talking to him about doing graduate work in OT, and his advice to me was to devote my time to studying Semitics….and to use that as the basis for later theological reflection in writing. That nicely summarizes the basic approach that Dr. Kline modeled again and again – the best Biblical theology is one that is rooted in the text, informed by the various covenants in Scripture, and unveiled as part of the unfolding story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation!

It has become one of my 'unofficial' habits to read through Kingdom Prologue once a year. Now going on 8 or so years of doing so, it is remarkable that I continue to find exegetical and theological nuggets of profundity that I somehow ‘missed’ upon previous readings. It makes me wonder how much of KP I truly grasped when I first read it in 1998. 20%? 10%? This highlights how sorely ignorant we (the church) are of genuinely insightful reflections on OT (and NT) theology. The problem that people continually have with Dr. Kline exposes our unfamiliarity with the principal data (the Scriptures) of our theology. Far from ‘fanciful exegesis’, Dr. Kline dared to explain in the text what few others would.

Sixth, Dr. Kline’s insights into the ‘works principle’ in the Mosaic covenant are among the more controversial aspects of his theology, but they have proven beneficial to myself when I began to actually work through various parts of the OT, whether it be the book of Leviticus, the book of Joshua, or the prophesy of Zephaniah. The seminary curriculum did not permit Dr. Kline the occasion to work through each of these books with the students. And yet the way in which he taught the OT enabled me (and surely countless others) to move into these other portions of scripture with understanding of the ‘big picture’ of life under the Mosaic epoch.

Seventh (and lastly, following the esteemed Dr.’s love for the ‘sabbatical rest’ pattern of Scripture!), one could not conclude any reflections of Dr. Kline without mentioning his love for the Book of Revelation. That raises a most conspicuous question – since when does an OT scholar of Dr. Kline’s caliber cite a NT book as his favorite text? But this explained so much about Dr. Kline’s love for Biblical theology and its God-ward, heaven-ward trajectory. When you look at the warp and woof of Dr. Kline’s impressive resume of ground-breaking OT work – the Imago Dei in Genesis 1, the Covenant of Creation under Adam, the common grace covenant with Noah, the ratification-oath-pledge by God to Abraham in Genesis 15, the Suzerain-treaty form of the Works-covenant under Moses, the intrusion of curse-ethics under the Canaanite conquest, the little-apocalypse of Isaiah 24-26, the eved-YHWH of Isaiah, the protological-prosecutorial-eschatological role of all the Prophets, and many, many other themes/texts – it should be clear why Dr. Kline would love any book of the Bible that is capable of bringing all of these organic strands of OT revelation together with vivid apocalyptic brilliance, anti- and arch-typical fulfillment, eschatological resolution, and Christo-centric finality. How could one not love the Book of Revelation as a result?

It is indeed fitting that the final chapter in his final work (unless a posthumous work surfaces!) in God, Heaven, and Har Magedon – one third of the book no less – was devoted to the grand ‘Messianic finale’ as given in Revelation. This is Dr. Kline at his best, still sharp as ever at the end of his earthly pilgrimage, still motivated to expound the glories of the resurrected Christ seated in the heavenly places!

We give thanks for the allotted time given by the Lord for Dr. Kline’s long ministry to so many students over the decades here in the ‘lower register’! Though we grieve the loss of a great servant of the Lord, we rejoice in the hope that so saturated Dr. Kline’s teaching from beginning to end:

“We have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
(II Cor. 5:1)
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
(Heb. 9:24)
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates…The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price."
(Rev. 22:14,17)


Dr. Kline’s homecoming has begun, and no doubt he is loving the ‘indoxation’ of Heaven even more than he could ever had done so while speaking about it as a 'pilgrim' on the road to glory.

As he was often heard in class praying, “Even so Lord, come quickly!”

_______________________
Matthew Ashley Morgan
April 19th, 2007
for the Westminster Alumni Reflections of Dr. Kline,
to be given to his wife and family