Monday, October 30, 2006

A Reformation Day Reflection

Tomorrow marks the 489th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of a building at the University of Wittenberg where he taught. Although not intended as the start of a new religious movement, Luther's theses set fire to the brush fire that became the Protestant Reformation. But before that fateful day it was his study of Romans that unlocked the mystery of the gospel, and it was Rom 1:17 ("For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."). Here are Luther's own words on his struggle with that text:

"I greatly longed to understand Paul's epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, 'the justice (righteousness) of God', because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what He meant." "Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice (righteousness) of God and the statement that 'the just (righteous) shall live by his faith'. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into Paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the 'justice (righteousness) of God' had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven."

May we who are Protestants be good stewards of this rediscovery of the gospel in our own day and work for reformation in the church for the glory of God and the advance of the kingdom.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Book Recommendation: Exegetical Fallacies

Although it has been out now for almost 12 years, I still find that some are unaware of the execllent little book by D.A. Carson entitled Exegetical Fallacies. In it Carson explores four different "categories" of exegetical fallacies: word study, grammatical, logical and presuppositional/historical. In the fifth and final chapter Carson offers concluding reflections on additional areas where fallacies may lurk. Each chapter contains an abundance of examples, largely drawn from NT scholarship (including an example from his own work!).

Everyone who ministers from God's Word will benefit from Carson's incisive scalpel. Awareness of these common errors can save us all from flawed conclusions or flawed arguments used in support of valid conclusions. Perhaps best of all, it is less than 150 pages, meaning one can read through this quickly and benefit immensely. Even if you have little or no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, you will still benefit from reading Exegetical Fallacies

And even if you have read this in the past, if it has been awhile since you have perused the pages it is worth carving out some time to skim back through and be reminded of those fallacies we are most inclined towards.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Weekend Talk Series @ Ohio University CCC

This weekend I am speaking four times at the Fall Retreat for Campus Crusade for Christ at Ohio University (my alma mater). The series is called "Snapshots of a King" and is taken Matthew's Passion Narrative:

"A Humble King" (Matt 21:1-11)

"An Obedient King" (Matt 26:36-46)

"A Sacrificial King" (Matt 27:33-54)

"A Triumphant King" (Matt 28:1-20)

If you think of it, I would appreciate your prayers. Pray that God would enable me to paint a compelling picture of Jesus the King!

Further Evidence for an Inclusive Reading of "Us" in Gal 3:13-14?

As discussed in the previous post, I am persuaded that when Paul says Christ redeemed "us" from the curse of the Law, he is referring to Jewish and Gentile Christians, not merely Jews. An additional line of evidence for this may be found in 3:22, where Paul says "But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

Here there should be no question that Paul refers to not only Jews but everyone (in the Greek it is ta panta, which could even be translated "all things") being imprisoned under the reign of sin. But instead of saying "the Law" has imprisoned everyone he says "the Scripture." Now, this could merely be Paul using a synonym, or Paul could mean the entire OT witness (Law, Prophets, Writings). Or he may even have a particular Scripture reference in view, which if that is the case then why not Deut 27:26, quoted in Gal 3:10? If so, that would provide further evidence of the link between the curse of the Law and the larger curse that rests on all creation from Eden.

So what do you think? Am I desperately grasping for evidence to support my flimsy view or is there something to seeing a link between 3:10ff and 3:22?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Christ redeemed "us" from the curse of the Law

In Gal 3:10-14, Paul asserts that those who rely upon the works of the Law are under a curse (presumably because no one is able to perfectly keep the Law). He then claims that Christ has redeemed "us" from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for "us" (3:13). But who does the "us" refer to? Does it refer to Jews (exclusive) or to Jew and Gentile alike (inclusive)? Each view has its difficulties. On the inclusive view one must explain in what sense Gentiles were under the curse of the Law as well as the significance of the citation of Deut 21:23. Advocates of the exclusive reference must account for the seeming parallel between the "us" of 3:13 and "we receive" in 3:14 as well as the seeming implication that Paul would be speaking of exclusively Jewish reception of the Spirit in 3:14. The parallel between the "us" of 3:13 and "we receive" in 3:14 strongly suggests to me that Paul has in view an inclusive reference to believers in both places — Christ redeemed Christians (Jew and Gentile alike) from the curse of the Law so that Christians (Jew and Gentile alike) might receive the promise of the Spirit.

If this is so, that raises the question as to how Gentiles who did not have the Law can be subject to its curse. Admittedly, Paul does not directly answer this question in Galatians. But he does address a similar issue in Rom 2:12-16. There Paul argues that Gentiles who sin without the law perish without the Law (2:12) and that “whenever Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts” (2:14-15). From this passage in Romans, then, it is not a significant step to the idea that Paul considered Gentiles to be under the curse of the Law. After all, Gal 3:10-14 emphasizes that “whosoever” relies on doing the Law, regardless of ethnicity, are under a curse, for no one is able “to do all that is written in the book of the Law.”

This line of argumentation has led me to consider the possibility that Paul considered the curse of the Law as a particularization/focusing of the larger curse that rested upon all of creation as a result of Adam's transgression in Eden. This post is already too long to add further argumentation, so I will simply open the floor for comments and questions. What say you, friends?