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.

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?

9780805446548_cvr_webIn reading Michael Rydelnik’s The Messianic Hope, one can’t quite help but see the effect of Enlightenment ideals upon modern critical scholarship. Interestingly, the primary concern isn’t liberal scholarship, but the growing tendency within conservative Evangelical scholarship to deny a strictly Messianic interpretation of many key Old Testament texts. While this does not indicate all of these scholars are denying a Messianic understanding of the text, Rydelnik’s concern is the detraction from a clear Messianic understanding to the original audience: the prophet delivering oracular (and later, written) revelation to God’s covenant people.

The Content:

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the purpose of why Messianic prophecy is important. What is unique to this chapter is not simply the admonition of Rydelnik from Luke 24:44, but the perspective he brings to this study as a Messianic Jew. For Rydelnik, understanding the role of direct Messianic fulfillment is deeply personal. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home, he witnessed his father divorce his mother over her conversion to the Christian faith. Rydelnik, seeking to disprove his mother’s newfound faith, went to the Hebrew Scriptures, only to find they indeed spoke of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Chapter 2 addresses how modern interpreters approach the Old Testament’s Messianic prophecy. In this section, he deals respectively with Historical Fulfillment, Dual Fulfillment, Typical Fulfillment, Progressive Fulfillment, Relecture Fulfillment, “Midrash” or “Peshur” Fulfillment. While he acknowledges there are various other interpretive methods, these are the most common found in Evangelical scholarship.

Chapters 3-7 yield evidence to defending his thesis that direct prophetic fulfillment of the Messiah is the most frequent form of interpretation that should be seen. Chapter 3 deals with text-critical evidence, espousing that variant texts supporting the Messianic reading are to be preferred over the MT. Chapter 4 builds the case by examining innerbiblical evidence, namely, to display that later biblical authors read the former as Messianic.

Chapter 5 present canonical evidence to display the united theme of the closed Hebrew canon to reveal a Messianic understanding in the specific shaping of the canon, as well as the books included. Chapter 6 brings New Testament evidence to display that the NT writers and Christ believed the OT writers knew they were writing about the coming Messiah, rather than the NT authors adding a more full, inspired Messianic meaning to OT prophecy. Chapter 7 explores the hermeneutical principles of the NT in regard to understanding messianic prophecy; not all examples are direct fulfillment – thus, it is important for us to take note of these principles in order to see Christ in the OT.

Chapter 8 is devoted to trace the influence of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (otherwise known as Rashi) from his own time, the Reformers, and our current day. Most notably, Rydelnik builds the case that Rashi intentionally interpreted direct messianic passages in an anti-messianic fashion in order to dissuade Jews from believing in Yeshua.

Chapters 9-11 focus on key messianic texts, including Gen. 3:15, Isa. 7:14, 52:13-53:12, and the book of Psalms (namely Psalm 110). Genesis 3:15 he regards as Protoevangelium, that is, the “first gospel” account between the promised seed of the woman who will crush the head of the snake. From the prophets (Isa.) he critically defends reading the Hebrew almah as “virgin”, rather than “young maiden” and for the messianic interpretation of the passage rather than historical fulfillment. In using Psalm 110, Rydelnik again views this to be a messianic passage referring to the future King who will reign forever upon the throne of David.

Finally, in chapter 12 Rydelnik issues a plea to return to a messianic understanding of the Hebrew Bible, as this is the intended, historic meaning of the text.

Why Does This All Matter?

In anything we are studying, we ought to ask the simple question: what impact does this have upon the church? What are the natural consequences of rejecting a Messianic interpretation outright (Historical Fulfillment), holding to a Sensus Plenior interpretation (Dual Fulfillment), a Progressive Fulfillment, and so forth? Are there weaknesses for the argument of a Direct Fulfillment interpretation of these passages?

While I have generally viewed the discussed passages as inherently Messianic, it is troublesome for more than a few reasons to see many leaving these interpretations behind. One of the most problematic inferences to this would seem to pose an unintended detriment to scripture’s perspicuity. If the scriptures are clear in matters of Messianic expectation to us, it would seem self-evident that they should be so for those whom first heard the promises of God regarding Christ. The potential drawback to refraining from understanding the direct fulfillment of Isaiah 7 can easily lead to a slippery slope, failing to uphold the virgin birth of Christ. Many may claim this to be an overstatement – yet hermeneutically, we have seen this departure take place in more than one account of scholars who have espoused this view.

Beyond this, to assume the NT authors utilized creative exegesis to arrive at their conclusions emphasizes the inability for one to understand the text as it should be understood. I understand there are difficulties in arriving at the same conclusions regarding some of the NT usage of OT texts as messianic fulfillment, yet it would seem that this is not a hermeneutical problem of the NT authors. The problem of understanding is within us.

Final Thoughts on the Book:

While there were some things I could not fully get behind in Rydelnik’s treatment (such as Isa. 7:13-15 and v. 16 depicting another child other than the Messiah), the book was absolutely phenomenal. Within the footnotes is a treasure trove of information that the reader would be foolish to bypass; they are there for a reason. The format of the chapters and overall layout of the book is excellent and easy to follow, thus, it made for pleasurable reading.

There are difficult parts to follow if one doesn’t have a thorough background in the original languages (especially in dealing with text critical issues in why the MT should not be followed in certain passages) – yet it is not detrimental to understanding the breadth of his argument. I feel this work is pertinent to our time, as some Evangelical scholars are embracing more liberal treatments of the text and supplanting their own definition to particular doctrines (take for example, Blomberg’s current stance on inerrancy). It is an incredibly important topic, especially with regard to how we understand the revelation of Christ in the focus of redemptive history.

I would fully recommend this book.

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.

The content of this review was also posted on another site I contribute to: http://www.chorusinthechaos.com/

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

Why We Name Names

Many catch a good amount of flack for exposing false teachers by name. I can understand why – there are many things worthy of our attention. We can focus on the wonders of good, pure doctrine, building up our children by teaching them scripture and through intercessory prayer, edifying the church, loving our wives in a manner more consistent with how Christ loved the church, and focusing on preaching the gospel to the unreached.

However, one should note that scripture does not seem to present a dichotomy of hierarchy between what commands we are to carry out. Rather, we are to be found in obedience to all imperatival passages on the basis that we are held captive to Christ. Out of reverence for God, love of Christ, and the transformative work of His Spirit – we obey. This is summed up in the command to love the Lord with all of your being, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

All of these things are defined theologically; one’s hermeneutic is unveiled when they practice what they believe. When one clings to false teaching, the prevalent idol of self-worship attests to the state of their heart and is revealed.

We deal with false teachers as so:

  • Avoid them (2 Tim. 3:5; Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Test them to ensure they are not false teachers (1 John 4:1-6)
  • Rebuke them in the presence of all (1 Tim. 5:20)
  • Expose them (Eph. 5:11)
  • Not receive them into our house or even greet them (2 John 1:10)
  • Judge them with right judgment (John 7:24)
  • Correct them and even cast them from the church if they remain unrepentant (Matt. 8:15-20), as their condemnation has already been decided (Jude 1:4)

We are called to do these things because they:

  • Are disguised as servants of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
  • Cause divisions and create obstacles to true doctrine and faith (Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Preach a different gospel than that which has been handed down from the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9)
  • Devote themselves to the teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1)
  • Pervert the grace of God and deny our Master and Lord, Christ (Jude 1:4)
  • They will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29) because they are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15-20)

This dual focus shows that we must be able to test and approve what is good – yet also actively combat heresy. In either case, there must be adequate recognition to what the scriptures actually teach. Generally speaking, there is reluctance to confront poor teaching and a sweeping, biblical illiteracy. In other words, most are not simply willing to confront false teachers, nor are they properly trained to do so.

When people are trained to recognize counterfeit currency, they don’t start with the counterfeits. They start by mastering the aspects of what the genuine production looks like. If they know the true form intimately – a fake can easily be spotted. In this same manner, we ought to know the Word so well, in it’s immediate and corporate context, that when the counterfeit comes up, we can easily spot it.

However, this does not mean we ought to be ignorant to what the counterfeits look like. There is particular benefit in studying the old creeds and early councils. Know the roots of the deceiver so well that you can destroy them. Pull up the tree bearing bad fruit and cast it away to be burned.

Stop, for the sake of the church, feeling that this is unkind. It isn’t nice in the conventional sense. Who cares? We aren’t called to be nice; we’re called to be loving, patient, humble, meek, and a host of other things that have nothing to do with the vague, subjective nature of “niceness”.

If you love God and His church, you must guard it against those who revel in watching it burn. Their appetite for destruction is insatiable. They devour the church by maligning the truth, perverting the gospel, and carrying others away with them to do likewise.

We ought not have anything to do with false teachers. Anything, save calling them out by name and exposing the rotten fruit they bear by proclaiming the full counsel of God’s Word.

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.

Evolution and the Bible

It should be noted that this post was spurred from a Facebook discussion and will not follow the brevity clause of blogdom. I opted to share a term paper with fellow brothers in Christ and any others who were part of that discussion. Though my views may be different on this matter, it is important to recognize that this is in no means meant to downplay their faith, convictions, spirituality, or devotion to Christ. Nor is it in any respect intended to downplay the seriousness with which those who do not believe the gospel approach this subject. This paper was partially completed for my undergraduate studies; I say partially because two days before it was due, my father passed away and I was in no frame of mind to continue. If there are grammatical mistakes, poor sentence construction, and the like – please forgive me. It is a long read, as it was a term paper – so don’t say the warning was not presented.

 

In 1859, the already well-reputed scientist, Charles Darwin, released his extensive work known as “On the Origin of Species” for publication. Since this time, few topics have been so hotly debated among secularists and the church. The initial response by many within the church was to ignore the scientific validity of any evolutionary theory, claiming ignorantly, that God and science are separate entities and the two should not be co-mingled or interpreted in light of one another. Due to this, many within the church remained naïve to the claims of evolutionary theory and were slowly indoctrinated to many of them. Some within the church wholly embraced this new teaching, seeing that it posed no threat to the Christian faith. However, many others vehemently opposed evolution and the study of science in general, feeling that the two were mutually exclusive and could not be related.

In response to this and many other scientific advances, the Christian Science Journal was conceived in 1875, teaching proponent’s views to a Christian audience. However, the major challenge against this was that doctrine was seen subsidiary to scientific advances. Rather than engaging the conflicting interests in the pursuit of truth in both science and religion, the scriptures often took a second seat. They did not meet direct attack from this magazine, but conflicting theories in the realm of science greatly influenced editorial thought, resulting in liberalized approach and steady abandonment of conservative theology. At this same time period, many existentialist philosophers and liberal Western theologians came on the scene.

As a result of both liberal and existential thought, scientific theories contradicting the scriptures received little notable push back; the church moved toward a progressive approach to biblical theology. However, some did not see this purely as a Christian debate, and to be sure, Darwin was not the only notable scholar proposing evolutionary theory. The hot bedded debate would rage more silently though in these early years because of the lack of legitimately founded reason in approach to the sciences. Most arguments against evolutionary theory were simply met with hostility, rarely even involving an in depth study of the science behind Darwin’s thought. In more recent times (from the 1940’s on) we have seen a more balanced approach to the fundamental science behind the theory of evolution and its flaws.

The most notable work done in recent years, and considerably, the most criticized by the scientific community, has been through the study of Intelligent Design. Largely, it is ridiculed for its overly “religious” approach to science and is often labeled as pursuing a rock-ribbed fundamentalist Christian approach to the sciences. Furthermore, many of the brightest intellectuals on the side of Darwinian thought meet the proponents of I.D. with great hostility, often resorting to blatant disrespect in regard to the intellectual ability of the persons involved. However, many within this same field of thought are not taking this approach; they view the study of science as a pursuit of truth. There are meritorious arguments from both sides, and some evolutionary scientists are not ruling out the holes within evolutionary theory. In large, an integrated approach to science is being re-evaluated academically and theologically, yet there is much groundwork left to accomplish in order to reach any sort of consensus.

Though most of the attention is accredited to Darwin, other notable scientists before, during, and after his time contributed to evolutionary theory. Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707-1788) proposed a non-biblical approach to the Earth’s history, accounting for the creation of earth based on Newtonian Physics (Berkley, The History of Evolutionary Thought).

In this, Buffon argued that over the time period of 70,000 years, debris from the sun broke off to form planets after a collision with a massive comet. Over time, the Earth being one of these large pieces of debris, eventually cooled from the scorching hot molten rock, and rain came down from clouds to inevitably form oceans. He also argued that under the ideal conditions (i.e. a hot ocean and the right organic materials) that life could form spontaneously. Through a series of events, these organisms and large animals would migrate across the land and eventually adapt to their surroundings, thus losing or gaining certain qualities that would identify it as a new subspecies.

Though largely, almost all of Buffon’s ideas were inevitably disputed and shut down – he contributed much to the field of study and has underscored some of the most important ground work that evolutionary theorists have built off of (Berkley, The History of Evolutionary Thought). There are many other notable contributors to evolutionary theory, yet for the sake of expediency, we will address the more pertinent issues concerning modern evolutionary thought.

In evolutionary theory, there are many approaches that define the main basis for evolutionary thought – yet we will consider three of the main articles in debate currently, the first of which being vestigial organs. Vestigial organs are features that serve no useful function whatsoever within the species. The second issue we will address is biochemical evidence remnant within DNA structures of a species. This plays a rather large role in evolutionary thought due to the complexity of each species, yet the remarkably similar DNA structure they resemble among what would be considered common ancestry. The final issue we will call into question will be fossil records. Again, this ties in with the notion of common ancestry and even greater evidence of the sequence of gradual changes in a given species. In each of these evidences, we will consider the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the counterarguments against them.

Vestigial organs have demonstrated remarkably how species are related to one another, and has given solid ground for the idea of common descent to stand on. From common descent, it is predicted that organisms should retain these vestigial organs as structural remnants of lost functions. It is only because of macro-evolutionary theory, or evolution that takes place over very long periods of time, that these vestiges appear” (Miller, 1).

Vestigial organs have played an important role among scientists both for and against evolutionary theory. Though Darwin received the large amount of public attention for his views on vestigial organs, Jean Baptiste Lamarck proposed this notion through his theory on “change through use and disuse” in 1793 (Berkley, The History of Evolutionary Thought). Lamarck argued that as a species will stretch its limitations further and further, the offspring of said species would continue to adapt and evolve in its abilities.

Furthermore, he argued that as a species no longer uses certain organs or traits, these would inevitably either disappear, or lose their original function. In his proposition, Lamarck noted that flightless birds, though retaining their wings, had no vital function or role for them. In this, they were counted as vestigial organs that supplied no function whatsoever to the bird, yet were retained as a result of previous necessity. Though Lamarck was ostracized from the scientific community before his death because of his views, his ideas did not die with him.

Currently, the vestigial organs are simply regarded in the same notion that Lamarck originally proposed, and Darwin built off of; they are organs that once served a function in our common evolutionary ancestry, though currently, they provide no real reason for known existence. In humans alone, such things as the appendix, wisdom teeth, the coccyx (tailbone), Goosebumps, Darwin’s point, and the Vomeronasal organ are listed as vestigial organs. The problem with much of the study behind vestigial organs in regard to evolutionary theory is that often, the study stops there.

Once an organ or reaction is deemed to have no function within the body, evolution is often seen as the science stopper that proves the lack of functionality. Creationists and proponents of intelligent design do not disavow the evidence showing an organ to be vestigial, rather, they refute that these are as a result from the evolutionary process (DeWitt, Vestigial Organs). Furthermore, in evolutionary theory, is it assumed that these vestigial organs are a result of the evolutionary process, rather than scientifically revealed; in other words, the presupposition of evolution must be made to account for the lack of functionality within vestigial organs. The major split within this realm of thought between evolutionists and creationists would seem to be in terminology and semantics, which indeed, does make all the difference in the interpretation of evidence.

In the process of adaptation, an organism will undergo what is called microevolution. In this, gene mutation, or gene loss, takes place and the species or organism in question undergoes a process of change to adapt to its surrounding environment and needs. This differs greatly from macroevolution, which is the process we can put flesh to in respect to the origin of man (ape to man). The evolutionist would argue that vestigial organs (and the respective evidence shown in biological change and fossil records) indicate change into a new subspecies. This would be attributed mainly to differences in common ancestry, such as the link between man and ape. However, creationists would propose that this is evidence of simple microevolution (i.e. small change over a small amount of time) rather than macroevolution. This process is shown evidently in the retention of these organisms, yet the loss of their respective function. For this simple reason, the terminology used can greatly affect the presupposition behind it.

As DeWitt notes in his article, “At best, evidence of vestigial organs in man demonstrates deterioration and loss of information since the Fall. They are evolutionary relics of common ancestors with animals only if you begin with evolutionary presuppositions.”

However, another great mass of influence to evolutionary theory is built upon biochemical evidence, that is, the structural basis of a species’ DNA and how it correlates to corresponding species’ and common ancestors. The surge of thought from Darwin and the like has produced voluminous works completely devoted to this study, and inherently, it is developed systematically in organizing DNA structures that are most similar. For example, in Darwin’s studies, he devotes considerable time to expounding upon the structural relations between differing species of finches in the Galapagos, zebras in Africa, honeycreepers in Hawaii, and other species as well. Darwin noted that despite their differences in climate choices, food sources, or geographical conditions, these species all spawned from the same common ancestor.

“Why should ‘closely allied’ species inhabit neighboring patches of habitat? And why should similar habitat on different continents be occupied by species that aren’t so closely allied? ‘We see in these facts some deep organic bond, prevailing throughout space and time,’ Darwin wrote. ‘This bond, on my theory, is simply inheritance.’ Similar species occur nearby in space because they have descended from common ancestors” (Quammen, Nat. Geo. Online Extra Nov. 2004).

Another vital argument based from biochemical evidence is the notion of gene mutation that shows the proposal for biochemical advancement. Most notably, evolutionary theory proposes this on the basis of species change; one particular example we will use again will be the evolutionary process from ape to man. In this, through both migration and simple bio molecular mutation, the species changed from one to the next. The common ancestor is a primitive ape-like species, yet the organic representation of that change is man. However, most evidence shown from this species change is not shown to be literal macroevolution of the given species, but microevolution. Other evidences of this simple adaptation of the species has been shown in moths in Eastern Europe that lost certain genetic traits to better camouflage with their changing environment.

The simple, yet profound flaw in identifying the adaptation as an evolutionary process is that this concept involves one of change outside of a given family of a species rather than that particular family. In respect to this, one could argue that dogs evolved from another distinctly differing mammal. The major issue with this is that though we share the same chemical breakdown as an ape and have remarkably similar genetics as them, they are still distinct. The DNA found in humans, the amount of chromosomes, and the genetic adaptations are all still different than that of apes. One may validly argue for the adaptation of a species, such as the genome differences found in Europeans when compared to Africans in the ability to process milk, yet this doesn’t necessarily indicate a change of species.

Converse to evolution, one can argue that through dietary restrictions, climate changes, and geographical conditions, the species has simply adapted, rather than form a distinctly new species of human. Scientists would agree with this sentiment, yet still indicate that the larger change over time, i.e. the distinct ramifications of diet, climate, and geography, led to a large-scale change rather than a minor genetic difference. Yet in this same token, the adaptation of a given species is seen to be the footprint to the evolutionary process. Inherently, the flaw comes in assuming that since the genetic composition is made from the same fundamental elements to sustain life, the cell structure and function of mammals to other mammals (and plant life, arthropods, & etc. respectively), and the general composition of chromosomes, life itself is based from a single, common ancestry.

The overarching argument against this is that each individual organism, even a single celled organism, is so remarkably complex and different in nature, function, and genetic makeup, that it seems irrational to assume that they are based from a common ancestor. Furthermore, the rationality that life as we know it formed from a chaotic series of evolutionary processes just doesn’t add up, as we will see now in the fossil evidence.

Darwin originally proposed that fossil records show a gradual process of evolution of a given species – and due to this, further resulting paleontology should reveal this same process between other, intermediary steps in the evolution of any given species. In some distinct cases, there have been documented fossil records displaying the “evolutionary process” of one species into another. Yet in retrospect to the evidence, there are two huge problems in respect to the fossil record.

It must be noted that this argument is often dismissed through two lines of reasoning: 1) the lack of a complete fossil record and 2) the problems inherent in identifying what is transitional. However, this does not diminish the problem, as some evolutionists suppose, since the types of changes evolution requires to give rise to the various animal kinds over millions of years would be expected to provide ample examples in virtually every layer of the geologic record. This is not the case” (Unknown, Answers in Genesis).

It would seem that corollary evidence shown in the fossil records is at best, inadequate to create a dogmatic approach to the sciences. Many times, the fossils found by paleontologists are incomplete skeletal systems and cannot represent a distinct change in the species if found in this manner. Even down on a cellular level, fossil records will only bear so much evidence for the simple reason of the given species being extinct, the adaptation of the species, or it being an unrefined specimen. Further evidence of the vast incompleteness of the fossil record we do have, is contained within the beginning of the Cambrian Period, when many separate organisms appeared without clear precursors (Meyer, CNN.com).

The remarkable nature of this sudden burst of new species doesn’t necessarily hint toward creation without the preconceived notion, yet it certainly doesn’t support an evolutionary stance either. The problem with having an incomplete fossil record and proposing evolutionary evidence off of it is that there is a great lack of intermediary steps of these species-to-species evolutions. If one species were to develop into another completely different species (let’s entertain the notion of a single celled organism into a multicellular based sea dwelling creature) there ought to be at least partial representations of this somewhere. While debate has circulated in this issue as well, it largely still remains a major point of contention for people on either side.

Another large problem with the fossil record is found distinctly in how we find fossils. Often, fossils are not found in the singularly defined sedimentary levels as broken down per period, but in two to three differing periods. In this, the hard evidence would show that this fossil record would not belong in a distinctly differing evolutionary time period. In this, the distinct possibility remains that within a short period of time, each sedimentary level was formed and compacted to produce this fossil record, thus showing it was not necessarily a process over the span of millions of years.

The fossilization process could very well take much less time than is widely proposed (and has even been evidenced by some leading scientists using carbon-14 dating or radiometric dating [though this is also under considerable debate]), and for this reason, could differentiate between distinct time periods in which these evolutionary processes would have occurred.  As to why this would pose such a large problem to the theory of evolution, again, is that the grand species-to-species change advocates a positional process that takes millions of years to happen. In this, if there are found two distinct species in the same sedimentary levels that are believed to be part of the same evolutionary process, and we do not find a complete fossil record indicating the intermediate processes, we can rule this possibility out. Furthermore, if a given fossil is excavated in multiple layers of sediment presumably spanning millions of years, this too can be ruled out.

As Christians, we can safely wrap up our own beliefs in the sufficiency of scripture and it’s revelation to us, yet this does an injustice to the field of science. Ultimately, God is Lord over all things and the author of all true wisdom; He has revealed Himself in all of life and shows this truth to be evident. The matter at hand is not simply one in which we can ignore the sciences and simply discuss the scriptures. To be sure, scripture should always form our first precedent in how we study any field of science. Naturally, we will always be met with opposition in how we approach most things – however; it would damnable if we left it at that. There is an inherent responsibility not only for Christians to take a deeper look at the science behind creation, but unbelieving scientists as well. For each side of this debate, these evidences (among many others) respectively build off of and hinge upon each other. Largely, the reason based approach to each respective stance yields to the other proposed notions they believe the science leads it to.

Some evolutionists will admit the flaws within the theory itself, yet the large consensus in those with a soapbox, ultimately squash this in favor of an approach without the possibility of God, using Occam’s Razor to substantiate this reasoning. Considerable attention needs to be devoted to this field of study by Christians. This debate has been met with vehement outrage or the ignorant embrace of one side or the other since it began. The science is not fully conclusive on either side; though the Christian should know with certitude based from the scriptures that science can be approached rationally.

Largely, evolution is meeting criticism for its weaknesses – and though intelligent design meets its fair share of flak for its own, general science is being forced to grow. As intellectual beings, we must decide whether or not we will give due study where it needs to be afforded – or if we will remain painfully ignorant and unbalanced in our apologetics and understanding of God, or respectively, our understanding of science. Furthermore, if the quest is for the truth (here we recognize the term “truth” not in a subjective, relativistic sense – but in an objective, qualitative and substantive truth from the lens of scripture), how could one be construed as prudent if the individual does not devote time to develop a rationalized and informed approach to such a growing issue?

For the one claiming to be Christian, one cannot hold to a literal rendering of Genesis in order to defend evolution – yet it should also be noted that theistic evolution is generally seen as an equally laughable notion to the scientific community as creationism. Evolution is a completely unassisted, naturalistic process. Remember the reference above to Occam’s Razor? In favor of a complex philosophical issue, such as the existence of God, adherents accommodate through utilizing the simplest answer: there is no God.

In the scriptures, readers don’t necessarily find the prescription to treat this text so freely. In other words, persons reading the text don’t assume literary command over narrative style as they would with prose or proverbial texts. If one takes these same literary rules and apply them to narrative, they will quickly find that the rules do not appropriately engage the text. Narrative is simply meant to employ the task of story telling; thus, the story is either true and in accordance to how an omnipotent God created the earth, or it is a fable meant to employ concepts of His nature. But if this is true – can narrative exposing His attributes be representing of His true nature – or are such things subjective to interpretation? In more clear language, does this positional narrative develop and reveal actual characteristics of God, or simply ascribe to Him something similar to what He is like?

To what end though do we apply this rule within the stylistic boundaries of literature to scripture? Are all points of narrative simply meant to engender patriarchal sentiments for God, though they don’t account for what literally took place in time and space? Do we account for most of the Old Testament narrative in this same manner (i.e. Jonah, Noah, Job, or any of the incredibly long life spans found in Genesis)? Are the synoptic gospels and the book of Acts in this same rule? Can we dismiss the healings and miracles of Christ and the Apostles? Do we dismiss demonology? Can we dismiss Christ’s death on the cross (as the Gnostics did), His deity (as Arius did), or his bodily resurrection or ascension?

Surely, these are seen as more problematic doctrines to deny for the Christian, but it must be asked: to what end do we decide what to do with biblical narrative? Can one legitimately substantiate dealing with one piece of narrative in a loose manner without presupposing the remaining articles of narrative to that same framework – and if so, what is the criteria?

There are more substantial things at risk here then simply the origin of man. For example, one could easily adopt the view that Adam was not the first man, but a figurative representation of man; therefore, the sin imputed to man because of him would not necessarily be literal, but metaphorical, representing a figurative fall of man. While the slippery-slope argument is not necessarily the most winsome, it is used on either side of this debate. Interpretation of the scriptures, and specifically in this case, the data, makes a radical difference. We find in either case a presupposition based ideologically within the convictions of those divided on this topic. Though the aim is to be objective, this does not necessarily take place.

A further understanding of God’s character should yield a greater sense of awe of His divine attributes, His raw power, and His ability to create and sustain. Yet a further understanding of how He has exercised His attributes, demonstrated that power, and how He has wrought the cosmos and all within it – and sustains it, should respectively increase our awe and reverence toward Him. Surely, science is an organism that continues to evolve. It is only when one remains stagnant and willfully unlearned (especially in regard to the scriptures) that they fail to grow in respect to salvation and glorify the Lord.

Sources:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/history_06

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/history_09

http://www.livescience.com/11317-top-10-useless-limbs-vestigial-organs.html

http://www.discovery.org/a/13391

http://www.discovery.org/a/12831

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature1/fulltext.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0308_060308_evolution.html

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/lines/Ifossil_ev.shtml

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/origsoflife_06

http://answersingenesis.com/get-answers#problems

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v3/n1/setting-record-straight-vestigial

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13927-five-things-humans-no-longer-need.html?DCMP=ILC-hmts&nsref=news9_head_dn13927

On Ecclesiology

            In studying ecclesiology, it has quickly become one of my favorite areas of theology. This isn’t to say that other aspects of doctrine or theology are not equally captivating to me, but rather, that one’s ecclesiological position will directly reflect from their understanding of true orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

If you are part of the Base Ecclesial Communities in Latin America, your church practice will reflect the need for social justice and liberation from tyrannical leadership (or even more simply, political/social structures that are maligned to Christian practice). Christ has provided freedom from all forms of bondage, desiring that the church would live without oppression, persecution, and so forth. In other words, freedom from such things qualifies the recognition of God’s kingdom being established on Earth. Thus, the gospel is another sociologically adept, politically motivated tool for the reconstruction of society.

If you hold to Feminist Ecclesiology, you would desire that churches be without any patriarchal leadership. In other words, men will not be primary in the hierarchical structure of the church’s leaders. Not only this, but God the Father is seen as “Mother” or even “Lover” rather than the conventionally understood “Father” as recorded in scripture. The Spirit is gender neutral, reflecting the Greek (ignoring the qualifying articles given in any syntactical outline). Some would even hold so far as to remove themselves to a monastic-like society, until the global church recognizes the inferiority with which women have been treated in ecclesiastical institutions.

If you reside in an African Independent Church, you would assume freedom from the effects of sin, rather than after the eschaton when Christ reigns, and sin and death are no more. There would be little difference from the “man of god” and the shaman, as they often utilize the same methodology to deliver one from whatever ails them. While you may find some “men of god” who differentiate from the shaman for intensive purposes, the Word of God is often neglected in favor of zealous, spiritual fervor, where biblical counseling has no place, nor biblical application. Instead, deliverance is the key theme and mission of the church; Christ died to free you from the bondage of sickness, disease, poverty, and the like, in this life.

If you are aligned to Roman Catholic Ecclesiology, practitioners would hold that the hierarchical leadership (i.e. Pope, bishops, priests, deacons, etc.) is the sole way for the church to express itself (at least pre-Vatican II; Vatican II brought about some slight changes to this notion, however, it still considers Protestants and others to be outside of the true church, though still considering them brothers). The church in Rome is the highest authority, and the authoritarian levels beyond this extend through various Arch Dieses’ representing, and falling under the authority, of the Roman church. The layman may serve, but cannot obtain any office in the church unless he is ordained and has completed the sacraments. The church holds the “keys” to the Christendom, and it is the necessary establishment for salvation.

While these are all broad, succinct representations of some ecclesiological movements, one can easily see how drastically different these systems are used to proselytize dogma in how the church is to practice its religion. We must also note that these 4 ecclesiological systems are not remotely close to encapsulating the entirety of ecclesiological systems. Other notable ecclesiological systems to be discussed would be Protestant (and especially the sub-delineations within Protestantism), Eastern-Orthodox, and so forth.

What is even more interesting in this though, is how within the sub-context of these ecclesiological systems, there is a wide array of views and practices. In the same township, two churches belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention can look drastically different from one another. One may be Egalitarian, while the other is Complementarian; one may have Congregational Rule, while the other is Elder led; one may hold to Covenantal Theology, while the other holds to Dispensational Theology; one may be Calvinist, the other Arminian.

The question to ask would seem to be whether or not denominations really mean all that much any more, and whether they are fading into a point where each local church looks quite different from their mainline, denominational counterparts. Another question to be asked would simply be what is God’s design for the global and local church? Surely, it would seem evidently true that local churches would have freedom in church practice presupposing that their cultural standards don’t overrun biblical truth. Yet it also seems self-evident that the global church should have a fixed, scriptural definition of ecclesiology.

This is by and large, what the ecumenical councils of our current age are seeking to address – but call me a skeptic; I just don’t see that happening fully. In a lot of major ways, not all church practices are true to Orthodoxy, or even biblical orthopraxy. Furthermore, not all of these views can be correct in various aspects that play in majorly to their ecclesiological system (i.e. – take into account Christology, Pneumatology, Theology Proper, Hamartiology, Eschatology, etc.). These doctrines, and more so dogmatism over doctrine, have separated the global church and left any commonality in the unity and bond of the Spirit, out of the equation.

Yet having dogmatism in a properly rooted biblical ecclesiology is completely necessary simply for the reason that the church represents Christ. If we have an ill-defined ecclesiology (presupposed upon an ill-conceived hermeneutic of scripture), we will malign the reputation of Christ. In other words, an improper ecclesiology will not bring glory to our Triune-God simply because the church has not developed and purified her concept of God in a manner befitting his holiness.

This is specifically why I am skeptical that any amount of ecumenical councils will be able to define a proper, global ecclesiology. For this reason, it renders all other aspects, such as a global Missiology, fraught with problematic theology, seeing as the aforementioned doctrines are so closely interrelated. The widespread variance of hermeneutics, while being generally recognized as secondary issues, can easily move toward incredibly problematic, core doctrinal issues. Hence, why ecclesiology is fast-becoming my favorite theological discourse of study.