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.

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.

The First Time We Saw Him

9780801016301Matt Mikalatos sets out with a noble goal in his book, The First Time We Saw Him. The intended purpose of the book appeals to understanding the scriptures with fresh eyes, namely, the eyes we once saw them with at the initial point of salvation. In these early months of receiving the gift of faith, we read with veracity, having scales fall off of our eyes due to the cleansing effect of His word upon our souls.

While he never goes into an in depth description of what discipleship is, Matt aptly points out that discipleship is not simply a body of information that needs dissemination to new converts. Rather, it is modeling this behavior in light of having the correct information from scripture. Thus, it is akin to Paul saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Orthodoxy meets and informs Orthopraxy. Though we don’t know the principles by which Mikalatos informs his understanding of Orthodoxy – this statement is incredibly solid.

His writing is clear and articulates what he desires to within the text. Simply stated, this book is easily accessible to those who have difficulty reading and maintaining focus. However, Matt takes liberty with common parables of scripture by rewriting them. Many convey a similar intended meaning yet ultimately fail to do justice to the text.

One specific example is in respect to the parable of the Good Samaritan. However, instead of the Samaritan being a Samaritan, Mikalatos changes the character to a practicing Muslim. Surely, Matt displays the “Good Samaritan-Muslim” as the one who exhibits compassion upon the needy soul as others whom we would expect to act pass by unflinchingly. However, the context of this parable is in reference to salvation.

Remember, the expert in the law asks Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This parable hinges off of the premise that saving faith is one that understands not only the facts of salvation, but puts them into practice. Matt specifically writes in his dialogue of the parable, “Could the teacher be saying that a man like this is closer to eternal life than a respected pastor or seminary student [who do not respond accordingly]?”

The intended point in this passage is not to diminish a proper understanding of the Law – but that a true understanding of it brings about a heart of compassion. In other words, Matt’s “Muslim Samaritan” is not closer to eternal life, as his beliefs are still damnable. The illustration used asks that if one has poor or false teaching and is still merciful – how might the one who understands what the Law requires reconcile deliberate disobedience to it?

Beyond this, we see Christ portrayed on the cross in the manner of a kicking and struggling, unwilling participant in the crucifixion. This is horribly inadequate and against what scripture teaches. Christ went willingly to the cross, enduring the punishment and despising the shame of it – however, He did so with full intentionality and without complaint, bowing in submission to the Father to accomplish His will.

While Matt aptly highlights some of the costs associated with following Christ, and respectively, not following Him – one of them is not eternal separation. Beyond this, he treats the cost of following Christ without particular clarity. Part of this is obedience to the scriptures, another, losing one’s life (as Piper so eloquently puts it, “picking up the means of your execution and carrying it to the place of execution). Following Christ requires a large cost – yet not following Christ requires a large debt that cannot be satiated by those who are not in Christ. It is more than missing out on a transformed life – it is missing out on restored fellowship to your Creator and subsequently being damned to eternal punishment.

The larger problems in this book are not theological premises, but attitudinal. Namely, Matt never addresses the heart behind one’s lack of desire for scripture and how to read it, nor plainly, the sin in this. What is paraded instead is an appeal to emotion – ultimately implying that there is something wrong with the person who picks up their bible in the morning to be faithful, and doesn’t feel anything when they read it. In other words, when we read the scripture (especially the words of Christ – seemingly, displaying more of the red-letter preference nonsense) we ought to be touched in our hearts every single time.

To be clear – I am not saying that one ought not feel anything in the midst of reading scripture. However, I will emphatically argue that being faithful to dive deeply into the recesses of God’s revelation to mankind is not about getting the fuzzy-duzzies. For an excellent treatment of this, read this link.

The attitude with which one ought to bring to reading the scriptures is not one of sensationalism, but of desiring to know the Lord and His active plan in redemptive history and how that affects those whom are called. Moreover, ask questions like the following (and more): What do the scriptures teach about the condition of man? In what ways is the gospel applicable to my current situation? In what ways do I need to repent? In what ways can I further understand God, His purpose for the church, and His sanctifying work in my life? In what ways do I need to understand how to share this with others? How does this particular passage fit within its context – and how then does it apply to the church? What does the passage teach is the proper response to the truth I am reading? How then, do I practically respond in obedience to the truth that I am confronted with in order to please God?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. Another title I would recommend in its place would be: How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

There is Hope in Relativism

If there is one thing that postmodernism has done, it has substantively removed any firm grasp on logical discourse. Now, one who is a proponent of relativism would argue just the opposite – postmodernism has assuaged their desire to be firm on any one thing except relativism. No one source can be credible, save the test of one’s own self-idealized version of the truth. While there are varied exceptions to this rule, such as an appeal to what can be observed, it is through the lens of observation that they build a presupposition to truth.

Inherent to this is the rather presumptuous and contradictory notion that an appeal to authority is not permissible. In example: if I were to argue that the bible holds authority over every man, regardless of his disposition to it; that would be considered ridiculous. However, it is fully allowable for them to appeal to the authority of self to say that scripture does not hold authority over them. If they do appeal to authority outside of themselves, it is to another man who holds the exact same position.

This allows for arguments to be safely contained and never progress. When this is challenged, the argument stops immediately for one important reason: there was never intent to dialogue about these issues.

Essentially, the object behind this conversation was to proselytize and convince the believer that the scriptures are flawed, if there is a god – it is certainly not the Judeo-Christian God, belief in anything outside of what is observed is folly, and etc. Whatever the primary agenda is of the one interacting, it will be the focus of the conversation. They will lead the discussion, expect the one whom they are speaking with to adhere to their own principles of discernment, and will rarely engage with what is actually presented other than to show that their way of thinking is supreme.

All men are worshippers – it is simply the object of their affection in worship that differs. The only thing one has to do in order to discern the object of their affection is to listen long enough. What is treasured will be revealed through their lips. In this case, what they worship is not a graven image – but a reflected one. They worship themselves.

So why do we press on knowing all of this? For the Christian, what is even the purpose of sharing the gospel if this is the agenda? Simply put, we move forward in obedience to the scriptures in order to marvel in a supremely sovereign Lord who has the ability to raise the dead. No amount of evidence you provide is going to be sufficient; no amount of fine rhetoric or charm you exhibit; no amount of exposing contradicting agendas in their own beliefs.

It is God who effectually wills for one to be saved – conveniently through the faithful proclamation of the word and the incredible ministry of His Spirit. This is where my Arminian friends misconceive the ministry of the Spirit upon the unregenerate. Even the term unregenerate presupposes that an outside force must operate in order for regeneration to take place. It is the gospel that saves, leaving no room for man to boast – none.

We move forward with the understanding that only the bible is the basis for rational thought; it is divine revelation and exposes flaws in worldviews. Apart from presuppositions, no one can make sense of any human experience, thus, there cannot be neutral assumptions from which one reasons as a non-Christian. In other words, the Bible formulates how we view natural evidences and it is only through the presupposition of the true God existing that one can hold a common basis of Christian Apologetics.

For the unbeliever, the observed world formulates how they view natural evidences and it is only through that lens that they are able to have common revelation extended to them. What this means is that though nature is sufficient enough to show the existence of God in the supremacy of His creation, it is only sufficient enough to condemn. It is the gospel proclaimed that saves.

There is hope in relativism – yet only in that the gospel can penetrate putrid, rotting hearts and expose the need for a Savior. Not only this, but the totality of the faith exposes the need for repentance and submission to this same Savior. The hope in relativism is not rooted in man’s ability to conquer it with wit; the hope is rooted in an active God who delights in bringing His sheep home, making the wisdom of this world into foolishness through a message that is folly to those whom are perishing.

Dynamic Women of the Bible

dynamic-women-of-the-bible-picI set out to read Ruth A. Tucker’s Dynamic Women of the Bible with the hopes of being able to find a decent resource to encourage women with. I had no idea of whom Ruth Tucker was until I read this book. That will be important later. For now, let’s examine this book under it’s own merit.

Within the first chapter, it was readily apparent that much of what this book was going to offer was pure, idle speculation on the nature of the women of the Bible. Interestingly enough, the authors who penned the scriptures were not moved by the Spirit to write much about many of these women. Truthfully, there is a ridiculous amount left open for speculation. However, I do not find such speculation profitable for the reader or the maturation of their faith.

The really interesting thing that I found was that through the midst of this, Tucker acknowledges that the point of the scriptures was not to highlight these women. Not necessarily, anyhow. The primary focus of the scriptures is redemptive history through the patriarchal lineage tracing to Christ, what His specific ministry was here on earth (yet also now, being seated at the right hand of the Father, and His eschatological purpose), and what implications this redemptive history has for those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord.

While these narratives are given in scripture, Tucker admits to being curious as to what their attitudes were. Surely, they were real women, as she writes. However, this is seemingly where Ruth Tucker lands: some strange middle ground where she asks a ton of questions that the reader is left to postulate upon.

The chapters move from character to character, speculating large chunks of narrative, such as, “There have been so many monthly periods she cannot begin to count them. Cramps and PMS sometimes lasting for days. And what a mess! No corner drugstore where she could stock up on tampons and sanitary napkins or buy a bottle of Midol. If she were like most women, she would have begun ‘the change’ in her late forties or fifties, bleeding at times like a stuck pig. Then would come the near fainting spells and what could only be described as grand-mal hot flashes—never-ending menopause. How long has it been since she made love with Abraham? Years? She doesn’t keep track.”

Granted, I am a man, and beyond the biological aspects of menstrual cycles and menopause, I don’t get it. However, to speculate on this simply seems to be trying to relate much more to the story than we have. Did she have this in commonality with all women? Of course. Do we need to speculate on the heaviness of Sarah’s period, her menopause experience, or her sex life with Abraham? Not really. It does nothing to substantiate Sarah’s character nor does it add particular value to this discussion.

Tucker does move beyond menstruation in this chapter, but to more and more speculation in the midst of the legitimate Genesis narrative. She presents some of what the text says, and then elaborates with mere speculation.

Through what I did read in this book, I was overwhelmed by the vast majority of biblical gossip Tucker purported to make her points. I decided to give the book 150 pages (the halfway point) to see if it would get any better – I made it to page 65 and skimmed some other chapters remaining.

What I got out of it was that the Patriarchs are viewed too positively and that modern biblical scholars comment too negatively on the sins of these women; Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews; Lot’s wife got a bad rap (Sapphira possibly, too); and a whole boatload of other hypotheticals.

I have mentioned this before, and I will do it again here: research the author for a minimum of one hour and see what you can dig up.

For what I found on Ruth Tucker in 15 min:

  • She is egalitarian.
  • She is a biblical feminist.
  • She has about 10 blogs devoted to slamming her previous employer (again, I don’t know everything that happened in this situation – but surely there is a more mature way to handle these things).
  • She has other blogs where she spends more time speculating and asking questions than she ever formulates biblical answer to.

My point is not to slam her in any way. My point is simply to show that she has developed a set of presuppositions by which she operates under as she approaches the scriptures. We all do this – however, some just do it in a poor, unbiblical way. What you read in their books will evidence this, always. It is far more valuable to read from authors who want to be mastered by what the scripture dictates. They may make mistakes in their hermeneutic, but it will not be altogether unprofitable.

You know you find a good author when you can see their desire is to be mastered by the text. They don’t spend tons of time positing on the details they don’t have – they unpack what they do have and seek to make it applicable for their readers. I have been growing more and more in my appreciation of these types of men and women because they have an earnest desire to show others what God’s Word evidences and what He desires for us.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Why I Review Books

img_7378-stack-of-books-q67-303x500Before I publish my next book review, I want to give some insight into why I even bother with doing book reviews. In Evangelical Christianity, we see a plethora of new books added to the stockpile of literature every year. Some excellent titles are brought forth from publishers (even from within publishers we would not expect). However, some really bad books are also put to print.

Many have a tendency to read books without much of a filter. They take in everything they can from a piece of literature without thinking of the source, the theological statements, the added principles between those statements, or the philosophy of this age that is present within it. In other words, some will ingest and mimic an author’s poor hermeneutic and presuppositions in their own personal studies of God’s Word.

As a seminarian, my explicit goal is to weed through as many books as I am able and share not only my recommendations, but also the books I would stay far away from. This is why I am so keen to review books of all different genres within the sphere of Christian lit. By leaving the selection process as open as I have, I am given more opportunity to review books from various authors (some I have heard of, some I have not).

A vitally important part of this process, that I embark on in every book I read, is to do some research on the author. I try to find out their history. I ask questions like: what other publications, be it articles or books or blogs, do they have? What is their bible study method (liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between; allegorical or literal)? What is the quality of their character (do they exhibit godliness and a desire to please God)? Whom do they associate with?

Now this last question is asking in whom they would align themselves within the field of teachers. In clearer candor – do they call heretics “brothers”; are they part of the Emergent Church; etc.? In finding out whom they rub elbows with, I can get a fragmented, but useful bit of information on what they believe about the bible. The rest I glean from their writings to either confirm or disprove my speculations.

To be clear: this part of the process does not start until about halfway through the book. I want the book to be able to speak for itself. I desire to give it a chance to be removed from the author and examined on it’s own merit. Truthfully, that doesn’t really happen, as the author’s presuppositions will always carry into the text (just as mine do in these reviews).

However, I still do this in the hopes that I don’t let my opinion of the author carry over into their writing. The author’s writing will form more of an opinion to me than any other thing that I spend research time on. This is really where we find out what they believe. If their theology is lacking, it will present itself in the text. If they are lazy writers, have an unbiblical agenda, misquote or twist scripture, have liberal or conservative theology, have a legitimate love for God’s Word and His people; it will be present in the text.

It is through this whole process that I hope to build a library of resources I can confidently give to other people and know that it will be a profitable read for them. I would rather take time out of my own life to sift through some books in order to help others who may not have that same time. I am a fast reader; I love to read; I can consume a 300-page book in a few days and I know how to mine it for gold. That being said, I also know how to identify if it is just good kindling.

Some people don’t have those skills or simply have not developed them yet. It is my hope that they can choose a recommendation from me that is thoroughly biblical and enjoyable to read. What is more of a hope for me though is that they will see a bad review and understand that some things are simply not worth wasting your time to read. Choose a book that you know will be profitable for you and bring edification to the church. Choose a book that you know will be biblical.

There are so many bad books out there – especially within the field of Christian authors. I am amazed how many actually get published. But – there are some excellent authors who dive into the text, adequately handle the Word, and give us the fruit of their labors.

I can promise you – I have an agenda. It is to find books worthy of your time. It is to find books that proselytize a pure, unadulterated message.

Iron Sharpens Iron

I am going to be examining a particularly common passage of scripture over the next few days and I wanted to show that progression. The reason why I want to do this exercise is to ensure that we are reading the text faithfully and properly. I am ever leery about bringing meaning and application to a text that doesn’t substantiate my reasoning, even if my reasoning is biblical. This leads to a poor hermeneutic (bible study methodology) and often leads to misrepresenting other texts, and finally, misunderstanding theologies and doctrines.

This text is not inherently problematic to find the meaning of, so this may seem futile to some. However, the method behind looking at this text is simply what I wish to convey over the course of these posts. The overarching principle behind all of this is context. Context, context, context! There are numerous people who operate under poor theology simply through ignoring context, separating the previous chapters of scripture from the next (say they look at the beginning of Romans 9 without addressing Romans 8 – or for that matter, we miss that Romans 8 is a pinnacle point driving chapters 1-7 and connecting the remaining chapters of the book).

This series will involve 3-4 posts, two of which dealing specifically with two different interpretations, the latter, with application of the correct interpretation. What I hope you do is create a hypothetical application to the second interpretation, which I believe to be a false one from the context, so that you may see what a poor hermeneutic can do.


“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NASB).

The gloss of the Hebrew רעהו renders the word “friend, companion, fellow, another person, neighbor”. Spanning several different translations, the two most common are “friend” or “another”. Once we look to commentaries on this verse though, there are two different camps one finds on interpretation.

In either case of interpretation, the nature of “iron sharpening iron” is not a process without pain.

If we were to take it on the position of the more common axiom in modern Evangelicalism, the argument goes something along the lines of the following:

The procedure places precedence upon the final state of the blade, rather than it’s immediate or intermediate. This is similar to Spurgeon’s note in the refining fire, burning away the dross from the precious metal so that purity is beheld.

The final product is worth beholding, while the current is but a mere piece of metal – no different from any other. Through refinement, striking with heat and hammer, the blade is forged – then ground down on the whetstone, so as to procure a blade fit for use.

It is in this that we rest – for the innate desire is to be capable of wielding the razor sharp scalpel of God’s Word in order to make clean incisions. Let us wish to cut deep and wide within our fellow man, yet with the skill and audacity of the workman who is unashamed in handling such precious tools, lest we knick the vital arteries and veins supplying life.

It seems it is far easier to maim than to perform skilled surgery upon the soul of man – yet with precision, the Christian man must work so as to ensure the division takes place at the cancer so as to remove it. The aim is to remove all that marks the believer unhealthy.

So it is with treasured sin in the hearts of those whom would claim they are called. Wield the blade; cut your brother with skill. Remove the cancer. It is only at this point that one can tell upon which soil the seed has fallen. If it is anything less than good soil, the scourge of discipline shall uproot it and show whether the gospel was effectual to redemption.

Note: these are all perfectly biblical assumptions, but can we assess all of this from Proverbs 27:17 as an added basis to our reasoning – or – should we presume to take this from other texts that are seemingly more applicable (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15; Pro. 27:5; Matt. 18:15-20; Heb. 4:12; etc.)?


Tomorrow I will post the second interpretation. Again, formulate a hypothetical application from it to see how different that application is from the former.