Romans 12:2 Visual Theology

Romans12v2

Finished product is comprised of two layers of 1/2″ compressed maple, inset with 1/8″ clear plexi glass; all layers with direct print to the material.

Verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NASB).

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Hearken, O’ Earth

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face.
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

Stop Moralizing Biblical Narrative

One of the most common treatments of narrative passages in scripture is in providing a moral treatment. David is a man of great moral fortitude and was a man after God’s own heart; the book of Esther is commonly debated on the basis of her status as a role model for young women; Job is a righteous man because he did not sin or charge God with blame in his trials. Surely, moral precepts should be drawn from the text if they are there and it is fine to ask questions on whether or not we should emulate them, but do they serve the purpose of the text?

For our example, let’s take the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50.

Throughout this entire chunk of narrative, we can point to several moral principles: the blatant sins of the entire family, Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife (thus, remaining sexually pure), his continual rise as an authority figure in Egypt, the value of preparation, the brothers realizing their sins, Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers, and much else.

However, what Moses presents through this discourse seems to illustrate an altogether different purpose: the Lord’s active hand in everything.

He caused Joseph to prosper in Potiphar’s household, and also gave blessing to Potiphar (Gen. 39:2-6); He granted favor to him while in prison so that he was responsible for all that was done there (39:21-23); He gave Joseph the interpretations (40:8, 41:16, 39); He caused both the prosperity and subsequent famine in Egypt (41:28); He gave Joseph authority over all of Egypt (41:39-41); uncovered the guilt of the brothers (44:16); yet most importantly, it is revealed why all of this took place in chapter 45 and 46:

“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:7-8).

And again with God speaking to Israel (Jacob): “’I am God, the God of your father,’ He said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes’” (46:3-4).

And again in the closing remarks of Joseph on his deathbed: “’I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’” (50:24).

The larger purpose of this story is not found within how Joseph honored the Lord. That is incredibly pertinent – yet the main focus is always upon what the Lord is doing in lieu of His redemptive plan. In particular here, we see God shaping the very reality of time and space by directly interfering with people’s lives in order to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant.

We see this evident in every instance of Israel’s exile. God judges His unfaithful covenant nation for the sake of His glory, yet God brings salvation in order to make evident His supreme glory through the fulfillment of His covenant promises.

Hebrews 11 records something similar by introducing readers to the forerunners of God’s promises. The nature of this passage is not to tout their ability to live morally; righteousness and faith are not described in this measure. Instead, their righteousness is accredited through faith, being confidence in the hope and assurance of the promises of God, which we do not currently see. Thus, these men and women were no moral giants; they held dearly to the future promises of the Lord by living in obedience to His commands.

Over all of this is the united theme presenting God as the ultimate victor, ordaining all things to accomplish His purposes and fulfill that which He has promised. Because of this, His people endure in doing good works, which God prepared beforehand, for the purpose of His glory. If they fail in doing those good works, yet turn to Him in repentance – God is faithful to fulfill His promises and manifest His glory in the salvation of sinners.

Thus, we can echo Paul in 1 Tim. 1:15-16 by saying, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

You can always draw out moral applications from narrative – but do not do so to the detriment of the passage’s intended purpose. If the passage gives a moral treatment, by all means, embrace it. Learn from the examples in scripture which were written as a warning to us. Yet when all we do is moralize narrative passages that do not present this as the main literary theme, we fail to see the magnificence of the sovereign King as He effectively works His will and focus instead on men, who time and again, fail to live up to the moral standards of scripture.

My Takeaway From the Past 7 Weeks of Seminary

I recently just finished a course at Moody Seminary called “Theology and Practice of Intercultural Ministry” which is a mouthful to describe a class on Missiology, or the study of Missions. I walked away with a lot from the class – but not the content itself. Rather, I found myself disagreeing with much of the content of the assigned reading (the world view of the anthropologist from Oxford, the presuppositions of the Christian with a doctorate in Missiology).

The text from the Oxford grad was quite illuminating in some respects (the text itself dealt with child prostitution in Thailand) by dispelling some of the common myths to the sex trade industry. However, even from the point of observational anthropology – you will undoubtedly catch propositions that reflect the author’s bias. In this, much of the heinous nature of what takes place is relativized in lieu of familial obligation, abject poverty, lack of education, etc.

In the end, this was no sin of the parents who willingly placed their children into prostitution, or of the children who all willingly went into the trade, nor even of the “suitor” who abused the children. In more plain speech, the necessity of the situation removed culpability – and though we would like to blame the “suitor” for having sex with innocent children, the conventional sense of innocence is precluded based on the cultural definition from the particular slum village in discussion. Thus, they did that which was right in their own eyes – and though the anthropologist was no fan of it, they could not pass judgment based on the complexities that arose from their destitute position.

The other book by the Missiologist spoke in great length of the merits to any missionary (or student of missions) to study sociological, psychological, and anthropological sources in conjunction with the scriptures. I believe one of the arguments in particular said this was needed just as much as an understanding of biblical and systematic theologies in order to speak gospel into a culture.

There were some excellent points in regard to utilizing language which would be understood, being a “cultural exegete” so as to understand the particularities of said culture, and the plea for a wealth of biblical knowledge. I wanted to like the book because points like these continually came up in the book – yet again; there was a heavy emphasis on the latter academic principles of sociology, psychology, and anthropology. It is not so much the understanding of these fields that bothered me – but the implementation of secular methodology that has no foundation or interest in the Lord and the scriptures.

Surely, the missiologist loved (and often properly quoted) scripture – yet many of his principles on reaching the unreached were founded upon secular methodology and he reflected nothing that I noted of studying such things with an extremely critical mind. The foundations of each of these fields are respectively built on Darwinian principles, and subsequently, are often antithetically opposed to what is revealed in scripture. This does not shock me in the least. In fact, I expect a mindset that is opposed to the scriptures from one who is not in Christ (just read Romans 1).

The class I was involved with was neatly split down the middle on these issues. Thus, meeting the physical needs of these families in Thailand were tantamount, if not paramount to their need for salvation. Alleviating poverty, educating them, providing jobs, food, and shelter, etc., would allow the church to be able to proclaim the gospel – and would subsequently make it valid.

Surely, James and Paul do not separate one’s faith and works – but do they make affluence and education man’s primary needs before a God whom they are alienated from? How much better is our “Christian Nation” for having an abundance of ease for most everything we have (including welfare, unemployment benefits, social programs, education, etc.)? I am not saying all of these things are bad – I am saying that they do not change the heart and will never possess that ability. The “betterment” of society in erecting these Babel-esk programs provides a means by which we often say, “Nothing is impossible for man!”

So what did I walk away with all of this? Sadly, that the broader church is in desperate need to be reacquainted with the scriptures – and a love for the things which the world declares to be foolish that the word calls the wisdom of God. Many have a sweeping, biblical illiteracy – and do not even seem remotely bothered by it. Many others read the bible year after year only to walk away with a complete misunderstanding of the text. Both of these camps either actively embrace or relativize heresies that the early church condemned, sweeping away doctrinal and theological differences under the rug of “love” because they don’t like division.

If we go to a biblically sound church – that is excellent! However, we often live in the bubble of our local church and relegate the unbelief of scripture to those who are outside of Christ. Far more damaging to the reputation of the Lord are those who claim to be in Christ, having nothing but disdain for what the scriptures teach. They are whitewashed tombs; having no love for Christ, they not only commit deeds deserving of death, but also approve of those who practice them.

The slide into this position is much faster than we all would like to believe – and it starts with a disposition to place the authority of God’s word under the authority of the teaching of men.

Defining the Terms

As originally posted on The Chorus In The Chaos

Modern evangelicalism contains numerous terms that summarize lengthy teachings in order to expedite scholarly work. These terms are incredibly important to our understanding of the framework that others operate under. Rather than developing an argument previously understood, writers are able to use such terms to get to the point of their own thesis.

In seeing these terms upon our study, we ought to implement the common, orthodox usage of them. However, much to the detriment of many laypeople, these terms are often ambiguously understood or used. In some cases, a person may misuse the term entirely, supplanting what they believe it to mean rather than the intended meaning.

In more recent years, we have seen scholars, such as Craig Bloomberg, redefine a term to nuance their own positions. In this specific example, Bloomberg has strayed from the common usage of the term “inerrancy” in order to supplant his own. With this in mind, it is helpful for us not only to understand the common definition given to inerrancy, but also Bloomberg’s position. A helpful place to start would be the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

Once we have developed our understanding of the orthodox view on inerrancy, we can move forward to understanding those whom may use the same terms, but imply something entirely different.

Why is this important?

Why do we need to understand these documents and look to those in the past who have laid such foundations?

Simply put, Christendom has always been subjected to debate over vitally important doctrines. In this, one’s hermeneutic will inevitably “lift the skirt” and expose how they read the text. More plainly, their functional vocabulary will define how they approach and understand the scriptures.

A Dispensationalist will understand the term “covenant” much differently than one who holds to Covenant Theology; a Theonomist will differ greatly in their understanding of scripture’s usage of “Law” than your standard Reformed Covenantalist. A person who holds to Annihilationism will undoubtedly give a different definition to the terms “perish”, “consume”, and so forth.

The inherent issue resides within a presupposition that we define the same terms in the same manner. We might speak with one and both affirm the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, yet if his definition is different than our own – do we both believe the same thing? More importantly, do we arrive within the realm of orthodoxy when studying the scriptures?

If I speak to one more theologically liberal on inerrancy, his functional definition will differ greatly than my own; he might say that the fundamental truths of scripture are without error, but not the text itself. Thus, because of this, we are left to read scripture in a manner that treats the Creation account figuratively, denying the historicity of Adam and Eve as legitimate persons through whom we were sold into bondage to sin. While they may even affirm the sinfulness of man, they stray from orthodoxy and their theology will show this.

In any dialogue we have regarding the faith, we must define the terms. Why is this important? I firmly believe that we should not only know the error of poor teaching, but the route with which they took to arrive. This will further serve to make us aware to an author’s bias, the presuppositions brought with their stance, and help us to navigate well the hermeneutical road so that me may safeguard our own study of the scriptures.

We have the Spirit to guide us in understanding these words, however, we function in an un-glorified state that is subject to deceit, misunderstanding, and willful rejection of the truth. If our task is to be transformed by the constant renewal of our minds, we ought to take utmost care and diligence in the methods we use to study divine writ. We must be vigilant in not only refusing heretical teaching; we must be vigilant in refusing a study methodology that logically leads one to accept such teaching.

We ought to know how to read our bibles in their proper genre, historical background, universal applicability, and even future applicability. We must know when to read scripture literally, and when to treat an allegorical text within that literary function. We need to know how to read wisdom literature, historical narrative, liturgical prose, and imperatival/polemical/instructional literature. If we neglect to do these things, we only serve to misunderstand our obligation as followers of Christ, and will continue to have a poor understanding of a marvelous God who revealed Himself artfully through human languages, histories, and cultures. Yet primarily, we will fail to see how the church is to function in response to the revealed truth of the Lord.

In summation, if we do not understand how to rightly divide the scriptures, we will only continue to navigate a path that goes contrary to the will of the Lord, and may find ourselves in a position of grievous error that we thought we would never land on. Perfect examples of this can be found all throughout the history of the church in the various councils held in order to affirm true orthodoxy, yet condemn heretical twists on non-negotiable theologies. We mustn’t neglect the foundation laid – yet we must also always be aware of scripture’s final, authoritative word over tradition, as the fully inspired word of God.

Ferguson, Wilson, and Brown

Whether or not you feel justice was met with the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson, MO, this scenario has only served to proselytize one thing: the sinfulness of mankind. This post could be spent pouring over the evidence against Officer Darren Wilson, choosing to say that he acted in a way that he should have. This post could also claim the innocence of Michael Brown, indicting Wilson where the jury did not. It could also present the incredible hoopla that the mainstream media played in distorting and blatantly misrepresenting this case.

At the end of the day – officers are granted the means by which they can terminate life, legally. There is much wisdom in not committing crime – especially in attacking a cop in any manner. The use of deadly force is authorized for officers for a reason: they are meant to come home to their own beds that night. Many who criticize police officers fail to recognize that there are plenty of people, drug induced or not, who get their rocks off by attacking cops. In many cities, it is a badge of honor to kill a cop.

Some officers abuse the right they have to protect themselves. Many cops in the history of police work have killed for lessor reasons than what we have seen in Ferguson. Some cops have raped, stolen, beaten, killed, and acted in a host of other ways that do not benefit their respective roles.

However, cops and criminals have one grand thing in common: sin. Sin is a worldwide epidemic. We see this in groups like ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram; yet we also see it with groups of ordinary people. We have extreme examples in our history that have portrayed the depth of man’s depravity, such as the Holocaust and in the genocide in Rwanda. We have seen the depths of man’s depravity in “lessor” instances with rapists, murderers, and the like. And yet Humanists will say that people are generally good. Sure, we have some “bad eggs” – but in their heart of hearts, people want to do good.

The plain fact of the matter is that this is utterly untrue. Romans 1 has indicated that man, rejecting God in place of the organized system of this world, has been subjected, or handed over to their own depravity. Specifically, Romans 1:21 shows that though man knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. Because of this, their thinking became foolish, and their senseless hearts were darkened.

Sin, then, is not simply what you do – but what you are. In summation, men are foolish, wicked, blinded, unthankful, idolatrous, and darkened. All of this because they refused to worship the Creator, worshiping the creation instead. Thus, sin is a result of obstinately misplaced affections. Whatever is not produced, as a result of faith in Christ, is sin.

Thus, if all of those whom have rejected God are foolish and darkened in their thoughts, the resulting aftermath in Ferguson is not a surprise. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone in America was all that surprised to see rioting in Ferguson after the jury did not indict Darren Wilson.

Yet scripture also indicates that the conception of abortion being turned into a women’s choice, the racial inequality that still exists, the raping of men, women, and children, the murder of another person, sexual promiscuity and the subsequent degradation of marriage, lying, stealing, slandering, enviousness, etc. are the result of this same process. The unbelieving man is foolish, senseless, and darkened.

For the one who trusts in Christ, there is hope. Yet this hope is not presently in this world or in the hopes of seeing it get better. The hope is in the person of Jesus Christ. The gospel then, is indeed, good news. This gospel transcends man’s innate ability to be in love with the darkness, indicating a new heart, softened, lightened, and being made complete so that the senseless beast may be transformed into a wise, properly worshiping man.

The injustice of mankind is not what happened to Michael Brown. The injustice of mankind is not simply the sins we have committed against one another. The injustice of mankind is bound within failing to meet three things that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, remarks of in his letters:

  • The love of the truth in the collective faith handed down from the apostles.
  • The love of God that is synonymous with loving the brethren.
  • The love of obedience to the commands the Lord has given.

Summative Chart-Timeline of the Old Testament

Here is a neat little project I got to work on for one of my seminary classes to finish out the 7 week course. It is a summative chart of the OT, encapsulating the major points of the story. Within this, we can follow the “promised seed” of Abraham through the birth of Christ, the chronological dates (using conservative scholarship) coinciding with the biblical witness, follow the timeline of the prophets in the divided kingdom, and so forth.

I sought to find pictures to go with this that would also go with the general function of the chart and others to allude to some narratives within the OT that we are familiar with.

If there is any constructive feedback that you would like to give, please feel free! Click the picture below to see at a larger scale (available to zoom full size).

SummativeChart-OT