Future Israel: Book Review

I wi46275_1_ftc_dpsh to premise this review with the disclosure that I have long been convinced of a Dispensational hermeneutic. While I would label myself a Progressive dispy (with a small “d”), I recognize many readers of this review are not of the same conviction and hold to the traditional Reformed views. I chose this book, as it is a topic of interest – and for my desire to continually re-examine my position to assess the weaknesses and strengths.

I have long caught flack from many holding to a Covenantal position, likening all Dispensationalists to John Hagee or tenets akin to Christian Zionism. I enter in this discussion of the review with the hopes of being able to navigate what tends to be a rather heated, yet ignorant debate. Far too often, false characterizations take place, exegetical arguments are dismissed, and jokes are made to deflect a probing question. We are dealing with a serious topic, and I hope to give this book a fair shake, yet also usher a gentle plea for my Covenantal brothers and sisters to simply think further about this.

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Rather than break the book down by specific chapter contents, it seems pertinent to divide the book into two portions containing these. The first, which I would break from chapters 1-7 detail an extensive look through the historical development of supercessionism. The second, chapters 8-12, detail Horner’s thesis exegetically, closing the book with a pastoral plea in chapter 12.

While I appreciated Horner’s careful consideration to the historical development of anti-Judaic tendencies, I feel as if this portion of the book could have been condensed. However, this is not a detriment to the overall thesis of his work, in consideration of the content within the following chapters. It seems as if the first seven chapters deal with setting the cause of re-examination to an age-old hermeneutic. When challenging long-standing interpretations, we ought to have good reason; this is precisely what Horner does in laying the historical roots of these theological presuppositions.

The fruit of this work is displayed especially in his treatment of Romans 11 in chapters 10-11. This is the passage seemingly overlooked by many, or distorted in favor of a spiritualization of the text. Beyond this, many often preclude an historical interpretation of the text (accordingly to the original audience) in favor of personal interpretation. This is not to say we cannot personalize the text – but the litmus of any interpretation is based in what the author intended to say and how that applies. Here is where I feel Horner does an excellent job treating Paul fairly – and while many may disagree with that sentiment, I would simply ask consideration of the argument presented in the remaining half of this book.

It is in this last half of the book that Horner deals with the more problematic inferences to a Covenantal view. He argues for the irrevocability of the promises to national Israel on the basis of God’s immutability, distinguishes between the unilateral and bilateral covenant, and takes careful consideration of supercessionist arguments against these as well. Here you will see Horner interact with common passages used to refute his position, namely Galatians 6:16, Ephesians 2:11-22, Philippians 3:2-3, and 1 Peter 2:9-10. Beyond this, Horner advocates those Jews who remain in unbelief are yet enemies of God needing to be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ. Though, he argues, national Israel has affection upon them from the Lord on the basis of God’s irrevocable covenant and the fulfillment of it, no man gets a “free pass” simply because of their ethnicity.

In closing, we must remember that the abuse of a doctrinal position does not disqualify the exegetical argument. Rather, the basis of exegesis is simply what the text lays out. More plainly, simply because anti-Judaism has been a common result from supercessionism, does not adequately refute the doctrine. Here is where I would simply ask my Reformed brethren to caution. Regardless of where you land on this – know that there is the potential to shift toward an unhealthy view of the Jewish people.

This is the precise thing that can happen in areas of Christian liberty, or even other doctrines. Calvinism, for example, can lead one to a faulty security in their salvation. In that same vein – I would also caution Dispys of taking the argument to an illogical conclusion. Holding to an economy of God’s redemptive plan disregarding Covenantal hermeneutics can lead one to an unhealthy obsession with Israel, eschatological prophecy, and even antinomianism. However, I would see this to be an indication of faulty reasoning and study method, rather than the doctrine itself.

Whether you are Covenantal or Dispensational, I would recommend reading this book. It is good to read books you agree with and disagree with simply to develop your understanding – yet most importantly, assess whether your hermeneutic is adequately reflecting the exegetical basis and salvific economy of the Bible. This is incredibly important – and we ought not deflect simply because we feel overwhelmed or we already have a predisposition to reject the argument. Read this book with an open bible, prayerfully, and thoughtfully. If you do so and still disagree with his thesis – good for you. You have at least done some legwork and been challenged adequately.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B & H Academic through the media reviewer 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.

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Banner of Truth Book Giveaway (Last Day)

I’m a sucker for books, especially free books. If you are too, here is a link to a promotional giveaway from Banner of Truth, including the Puritan Paperbacks set, Romans commentary series from MLJ, and Lectures to my Students from Spurgeon.

http://throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/giveaways/huge-banner-of-truth-giveaway/?lucky=12080

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.

Word of Faith Movement: A Response

It is patently unbiblical (Not found within scripture)

The troublesome thing within this entire movement is the blatant disregard to the scriptures in their proper context. While they may utilize the scriptures to support their claims, none of them speak to the immediate context of the verse. You don’t have to be any sort of biblical scholar to see this – all you have to do is read some of the surrounding verses to know that the context does not line up.

Take for example, the Prayer of Jabez. They utilize this, quoting from 1 Chronicles 4:10 to express the promise that God will increase their possessions, and keep them from harm. His name is only included in 3 verses within the whole of scripture: 1 Chronicles 2:55, 4:9, 4:10. However, it should be noted that the usage in 1 Chronicles 2:55 is not even the same Jabez… it’s a town. In the other verses, we find this small excerpt in the midst of a long genealogy.

It is blatantly anti-biblical (Contrary to the message of scripture)

There are numerous scriptures that contradict all of these teachings, many of which can be found simply in the exact immediate context of the verses they quote to support such claims. The extraordinary thing in this though is that somehow, though the Evangelical church has strongly combated all of these heresies, the heresy still thrives – even inside the church.

They admire the proponents of these heresies for their positive attitudes, their charm, and their bold claims of faith. I know people who have been Christians for more than 20 years, who have read their bibles cover to cover every year and still look up to people in this movement.

It is damaging to the reputation of Christ, diminishes the gospel, and tarnishes the soul.

When doctrinal fallacies emerge and a false version of Christ is lifted up, those taking in such teaching are harmed. Ultimately, this damnable perversion of the truth is exalted and Christ is painfully misrepresented. If you read any of these quotes and didn’t find them all to be more than troubling, read your bible a bit more carefully.

If you didn’t find their widespread influence to be equally as enraging as the crap spewed out of their mouths, re-examine your faith. If we do not feel assaulted when the truth is maligned, when the gospel is perverted, when actions, thoughts, and words contrary to biblical teachings are purported as truth, we may not find ourselves being aligned with Christ.

While their ministry may appear to be helpful, given the fact that it is a false representation of the truth found in scripture, it is damnable. The millions of people aligning themselves with this kind of teaching have an incredibly low view of God, believing themselves to be gods, and claiming dominion and authority over that which they cannot possibly be in control. Like you and I have power in our words to speak things into being. There is no humility in them; there is no reliance upon God. YOU have the power to become a better, more affluent, sinless, god-person. How incredibly pretentious of a belief is that.

False prophets were put to death if they sought to mislead people from God by their prophecy, yet also if the prophecy did not come to pass (Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20-22). If you think He doesn’t deal in the same manner today, look at 2 Peter, speaking of the false teacher. Look at the book of Jude, condemning the ungodly ones whom reject authority and have the audacity to revile fallen angels (though the archangel Michael doesn’t even dare to pronounce judgment against the devil). We don’t put any faith in men like these. None.

We put our faith in those who saturate themselves in the Word, exposing the truth plainly and without deceit. We place our trust in those who have shown themselves to be earnest in doctrine and able to teach. We place affection in those who show us true love, through both the proper proclamation of the Word, and through their continued efforts to spur us on to a greater maturity. Yet when we play the harlot to Christ and seek after those whom we know to be false teachers, we allow ourselves to be weak in the faith, and immature in respect to doctrine.

There is no positive thing that has come from this movement, save that God in His mercy has rescued people from out of the pit of hell within their midst.

Ode to the Apostate

Every once in a while I’ll dig through some old writings of mine to see if there is anything worth saving. Here is an poem written about 3-4 years ago now. This would be considered an ode, written in iambic pentameter, with a few slant rhymes here and there throughout it. It’s not completed, and has simply reminded me of that task – yet also the immense joy and love I find in writing prose.

 

Though throngs of grace have no respite, ’tis not
the conscious writer’s plight. For ink and pen
shall sing again amidst the folly’s plot;
’twas not the beat which formed his doubt, but men.

For seldom can a man escape what lies
within thick mire’s wake; his rest shall flee.
His breath no longer lingers whilst he cries;
his merry song has died, once Jubilee.

And so his soul lay down to sleep, perchance
to dream of days gone by. For in his death
he left no legacy; his last romance
was not of God, but vapors on one’s breath.

Though oceans roar like lions, and thunder
would strike as cornered savages, they shan’t
empower dead men’s souls torn asunder.
No, nothing, can repair dead men’s recant.

For what we do in life shall echo in
eternity. Ill deeds ensue us day
and night, and even when both fade wherein
our judgment day is come; a son’s dismay.

The Father gave His Son, yet sinners scoff
at such a gift. This beauty never speaks
to them; tis folly, doubt they shall not doff;
a faith which only serves blind eye’s critiques.

This truth forsaken for a lie gives life
no meaning, but to die. Yet still they laugh
and carry on, forgetting justice – rife
with envy, strife and pride; their epitaph.

Such acrid agony may bid them well,
lest joyous “Christians” hold their tongues. ‘Tis blood
upon our hands if we refrain to tell,
that Christ may bring them ransomed from the flood.

So many find the darkened road to hell,
and no excuse shall come to quench His wrath.
Yet those in Christ may share some blame as well;
for worn out pews leaves empty shoes and path.

How can one come to faith unless they hear
the Word? How can one know the truth of God
when workmen are ashamed? Can one learn fear
if doctrine slips away in your facade?

Do not be swayed by ev’ry man that speaks!
Their minds are as the waves which toss both to
and fro. They are but wolves among the peaks;
to twist the truth is all they seek to do.

‘Tis not religion, farce, nor scheme, so live
like you believe this truth! Do not be as
the hypocrites! Be open as a sieve;
do not scoff at the beauty which He has!

For if you do, you may become what you
once judged. Though grace ought reign, you’ll lead imposed
as those who’s shadows haven’t slightest clue;
they claim to walk in light, yet stand opposed.

The Unfaithful Bride

I know full well that the Word does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11) nor will it ever pass away (Matthew 24:35; Isaiah 40:8); I know that the Word is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, rebuking, training in righteousness, and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21); I know that the Word is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16); I know that the Word of God is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18); I know and see how the Word causes us to rejoice in the Lord and see it as a great treasure (Psalm 119:14, 111, 162); I know that His Word is eternal and true (Psalm 119:89, 160; Psalm 111:8); I know that unbelievers will not see the truth of all these things and more unless the Spirit of God brings them illumination (Ephesians 1:17-18; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Romans 8:14).

I know – and rejoice in the fact that I cannot control the results of preaching the Word, yet in that same breath, I weep. My heart mourns over the darkness within the hearts of men, and the hardness of heart such darkness brings. I also know that it is the Lord who hardens the hearts of man and gives us over to our sinful desires (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10; Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; John 12:40; Isaiah 6:9-10; Jeremiah 5:21). Just read through all of Romans 1 and 9.

There are many doctrines of scripture that people aren’t fond of, yet this is the truth. If we bear the name of “Christian,” do we have any right to stand before the God of all creation and claim any lack of wisdom in how He reigns? Do we dare stand and declare something to be “unfair” or “unjust?” Do we dare mock His sovereignty and sin in such a way as to diminish His utterly wonderful, eternal truth? Do we even dream of contemptuously twisting the Word in order to fit our own narrow thinking of mercy and love?

These hard doctrines do not cause me to weep – it is the rejection of doctrine within the hearts of man that I weep over, especially for those who bear the name of “little Christ.” I grieve over seeing others who claim to be Christian utterly reject hard truths because they don’t like them. It is a painful arrogance that boasts of being wiser than the Almighty; it is blithering foolishness, spitting at the perfection and holiness of His Word.

To what audience do we seek to please – sinful, depraved men who desperately need the truth of the gospel, or the Lord of the gospel? When we remove certain teachings from our proselytizing, we preach no gospel. An oily tongue and rancid, putrid, perversion of the gospel delivers a friendly message that does not save the soul. The gospel divides. Speaking the truth divides.

It is the antithesis to love in saying sin is ok.

Far too often the outcry is for a kinder, softer message. They ask, “What would Jesus Do?” I always reply, “keep in mind, the answer to that question could very well be driving people out of the temple with a whip and flipping tables.”

Part of what makes the love of Christ so glorious, and the gospel so wonderful, is that is saves us from the sins that only promise eternal death. If we diminish the truth of scripture by declaring something in opposition to what is revealed, we are in part, rejecting the faith. There are some incredibly phenomenal, faithful teachers of the Word – yet when we entertain the teaching of wolves, we will be devoured.

The extraordinary thing in this is that scripture shares the full, hard truth without any shame or cowardice. Why do so many feel the need to soften it if the message declares itself to be without blemish?

It is in this that I weep. I fear that the church has become too relevant; she has grown in affection toward this world, rolling happily in the muck and stench, without regard to her wedding day. She has donned the guise of false interpretation, forsaking biblical truth in order to show the world how cool and accepting she is. She has grown complacent in speculation and fruitless arguments; she has grown complacent in developing a love for external morality over the doctrines of grace. She has relished in divisions, and reveled in false doctrine. She has neglected her first love and in so doing, painfully misrepresented God to the world.

I thank the Lord that He has no desire to leave her in putrescence – but desires to reconcile her. I thank the Lord that there are faithful men and women in the church, striving to honor and glorify Him. But today I mourn. I weep for the state of the American church.