Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What About Psalm 104:14-15?

Do you believe that consuming alcoholic beverages is sinful or unwise? Have you ever read Psalm 104:14-15? Take a gander:

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, 
And vegetation for the service of man, 
That he may bring forth food from the earth, 
And wine that makes glad the heart of man
Oil to make his face shine, 
And bread which strengthens man's heart. 

The Psalmist states that God causes vegetation to grow so that we may bring forth wine, which makes our hearts glad.

Let’s summarize this:
  • God causes grapes to grow.
  • God wants us to turn these grapes into wine.
  • God wants us to consume this wine.
  • God wants this wine to make our hearts glad.
Do you believe each of these statements?

Not only is it okay to drink wine, but it is okay to feel the effects of wine, so that your heart rejoices.  

Not only is it okay to feel the effects of wine, but it is godly to do so. 

(By the way, “grape juice” has never made a heart glad. Ever. This is alcohol. If you think otherwise, read this.)

God brings forth grapes, so that we will make wine, so that we will drink wine, so that our hearts will be glad, so that we will give thanks to God.

When we drink wine until our hearts are merry, we glorify God because we use his good gifts according to the purpose for which he created them. 

(Of course, there is a difference between drunkenness and glad hearts. Drunkenness is sin, but glad hearts are not. But, this Psalm is not about drunkenness.)

Some are horrified at the thought of feeling the effects of wine in any way. 

But, God is not horrified by this.

God is horrified when we reject his good gifts. 

God is horrified when we when call good evil. 

God is horrified when we try to be “holier” than he is. 

God is horrified when we try to be “wiser” than he is.

Legalism is just as dangerous as licentiousness. 

So, repent by opening up a bottle of good wine. Enjoy the aroma – hopefully a flutter of nutty Edam cheese. 

Take a sip and enjoy! As long as it’s not Merlot!

If you think drinking wine is sinful or even unwise, I ask you, what about Psalm 104:14-15?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What About Mark 13?

If you are a Dispensationalist, I have a challenge for you. Read Mark 13 and explain the entire chapter verse-by-verse using only the context supplied by Mark.

Stay on target.

No bailing out to Matthew 24 or Revelation 20 or Daniel 9. Those are important texts that deserve their own treatment, but for this challenge, stick with Mark 13.

Stay on target.

Be disciplined to understand Mark 13 within the context of Mark 13, and you will reach the unavoidable conclusion that Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse is all about the destruction of Jerusalem.

Stay on target.

Those who read Mark 13 and find the Second Coming or the Rapture or a Jewish Millennium are importing these into Mark 13. That’s called eisegesis. The context simply does not allow it.

Stay on target. Almost there.

What about Mark 13?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Harmonizing Genesis 15 and Genesis 17

The two most important chapters in the Bible on covenant are Genesis 15 and Genesis 17. If you misunderstand these chapters, then you will fail to comprehend the covenantal language that pervades the rest of Scripture.

The most common error is to pit Genesis 15 against Genesis 17. Such an approach leads to the conclusion that Genesis 15 and 17 are speaking of different covenants.

Such a conclusion is unnecessary. There are differences between Genesis 15 and 17, but these differences should not be exaggerated. Often, passages that seem to be contradictory at first glance are, upon closer examination, found to complement one another. This is called harmonization.

Genesis 15 and 17 ought to be harmonized, not pitted against one another. These two chapters are speaking about the same covenant. The differences between these two chapters can be attributed to the fact that they are describing different aspects of the same covenant.

Genesis 15 highlights the promises of the covenant. God binds himself to fulfill the promises of the covenant. The dramatic ceremony illustrates God’s intense commitment to Abraham and his descendants.

If we only had Genesis 15, then we might conclude that God’s promises would be given to every single one of Abraham’s future offspring, without discrimination. However, this covenant is not perpetually unconditional. We see this in Genesis 17.

Genesis 17 highlights the succession of the covenant. How is the covenant passed down to future generations? Who inherits the promises of the covenant?

Genesis 17 reveals that the covenant is not unconditionally passed on to every single one of Abraham’s offspring without discrimination. God ordains circumcision to govern the succession of his covenant.
The introduction of circumcision reveals two foundational principles.

1) Abraham’s descendants must be circumcised to remain in the covenant. If they are not circumcised, then they are cut off from the covenant. They are no longer heirs of the promises. Not only is the uncircumcised individual cut off, but all of the subsequent offspring of the uncircumcised are cut off, as well. This is the pruning principle. The uncircumcised are pruned out of the covenant tree, regardless of their race.

2) Those unrelated to Abraham by blood must also be circumcised. Abraham’s household and other “strangers” who dwell among Abraham’s family must be circumcised. They are now heirs of the promises. Not only is each circumcised individual added to the covenant, but all of their subsequent offspring are added, as well. This is the grafting principle. The circumcised are grafted into the covenant tree, regardless of race.

The rest of the Bible reveals much more about the nature of this covenant, but Genesis 15 and 17 are the foundation. If you get these wrong, then you will misinterpret other covenantal texts.

Those who pit Genesis 15 against Genesis 17 misunderstand how the promises of God (Genesis 15) were mediated through circumcision (Genesis 17). Circumcision was the vehicle that caused God’s people to wax and wane through grafting and pruning.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Stubborn Weed

Recently, reader dk recently asked this good question:

Lately, your posts have all been focused on the issue of what actually makes someone a Jew. In particular, you have been attacking what you consider to be a fundamental dispensensationalist tenet that Jewishness is only attained by being a blood descendant of Abraham. Not being an expert in dispensensationalist literature, I'm wondering if you could cite some specific references from dispensensationalists that establish that as a tenet of dispensensationalism. You have made a parenthetical reference to the book, "Christ's Prophetic Plan", but have established no other basis for your claim.

Why I am writing so many posts about the same topic? Why am I repeatedly attacking the Dispensational idea that the Israel of Promise is defined strictly by race? Is this an important part of Dispensationalism?

Yes! It is important. In fact, I believe that this is THE central issue that plagues Dispensationalism. While Dispensationalists are best known for their eschatology, their ecclesiology drives everything.

In Dispensationalism Today, Charles Ryrie identified a distinction between Israel and the church as one of his three sin qua non of Dispensationalism. This tenet is still emphasized in classic or traditional Dispensational circles.

I am most familiar with the Dispensationalism of John MacArthur. He insists on a hard distinction between Israel and the church. God made promises to the ethnic Jews, and these promises must be fulfilled for ethnic Jews.  Israel/Jew is defined exclusively by blood/ethnicity/race.

When I was at Master’s Seminary (1999-2004), they began to ramp up the rhetoric, charging non-Dispensationalists with “Replacement Theology” and “Supercessionism.” Promises made to Israel cannot be taken away and given to the church. Such language assumes that the Israel of Promise is defined by race, not religion.

TMS grad and professor Mike Vlach has written extensively on Supercessionism. All of his writings in this area revolve around the premise that God made specific promises to the ethnic descendants of Abraham that have not yet been fulfilled. Some of his writings can be found here.

Lately, my posts have focused on chipping away at this premise. It has been a bit laborious, but I am attempting to pull a stubborn weed that is entrenched deep in the soil of Dispensationalism.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are the Jews Still "The People of God"?

One of the oddest features of Dispensationalists is their insistence that the Jews are still “the People of God.”

It is understandable to speak of a mass salvation of ethnic Jews in some future generation, calling that future generation of ethnic Jews part of the People of God.

And, it is understandable to speak of contemporary ethnic Jews who are Christians as part of the People of God.

But, Dispensationalists go further than this. They insist that the Jews are still “the People of God” right now. That is, all ethnic Jews living today are “the People of God,” regardless of their faith. Whether they are atheists or animists, it makes no difference. Race is all that matters.

What are the implications of this? Are unbelieving ethnic Jews in a different category than other unbelievers? In what sense can unbelievers be called the “the People of God”?

Such designations give a false impression about the current status of unbelieving ethnic Jews. But, let us be clear about this: an unbelieving ethnic Jew is just as lost as an unbelieving Gentile.

Unbelieving ethnic Jews will not be resurrected to life. They will not reign with Christ in a Jewish Millennium. They will not dwell in the Promised Land forever. They will not enter the Kingdom.

Millions and millions and millions of ethnic Jews have died as unbelievers. Are these millions of unbelieving ethnic Jews who have died still “the People of God”? Are there millions of God’s People in hell? Or, is this title revoked from unbelieving ethnic Jews at their death?

Furthermore, untold millions of ethnic Jews will be born before Christ returns. For those who are not elect, they will die as unbelievers and suffer the same judgment as all other unbelievers. Their race will not rescue them from God’s wrath. Their blood will not save them.

What’s the point of calling unbelieving ethnic Jews “the People of God”? This only promotes confusion.