Monthly Archives: November 2012

Authors, Texts, and Meanings: Hermeneutics Interview with Elliott E. Johnson, Part 2

Dr. Elliott E. Johnson is Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He has given a career of study to biblical and philosophical hermeneutics and Bible Exposition.  He has been a member of his church since the mid-1960’s, and there he has given himself to more than 40 years of discipling men, and training teachers to understand the Scriptures and teach it to others.  Over two decades ago he authored Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction (Zondervan), in order to explain the workings of the art and science of interpretation.  He graciously has agreed to an interview related to current discussion in hermeneutics.  (I am posting the interview intermittently rather than in its entirety immediately. You can read Part 1 here. Part 3 of the interview will ask, “In what sense is the Old Testament ‘messianic?’”)

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3.  You still seem to make great use of the theory, method, and distinctions made by E. D. Hirsch in his seminal work, Validity in Interpretation – a text that is 45 years old.  However, evangelical theories of interpretation seemed to have expanded upon or altogether abandoned Hirsch’s ideas.  Do you think Hirsch’s ideas are as important today as they were in 1967?

The proposal of E. D. Hirsch remains an essential source for two reasons:

First, his consideration of interpretation has been molded by the goal of validation.  Validation seeks to weigh the merit of a given interpretation in distinction from other disparate interpretations.  Disparity involves more than merely difference in interpretations, but two interpretations that are mutually incompatible.  But both cannot be true at the same time.  This theory of validation is predicated on a view of how language communicates meaning.

This approach to a hermeneutical goal is compatible with the literal tradition.  This goal is thus shared with the Reformation and its proposal to interpretation of the Bible.  A literal handling of the text is probably correct as distinct from an allegorical interpretation.  Literal follows the norms of historical and grammatical interpretation.

Hirsch’s approach shares this goal, but pursues the task in a more comprehensive fashion.  It is also compatible with the approach of Anthony Scalia in his OriginalistTextualist interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The second reason Hirsch is a necessary source is his view on how language communicates meaning.  His view is theory driven and has probably influenced the evangelical world least.  Few are willing to consider the philosophical reasoning.

At the outset, let’s consider Hirsch’s contentions:  “Verbal meaning is a willed type” (Validity, 51).  In his explanation, “the determining and sharability of verbal meaning resides in its being a type.  The particular type that it is resides in the author’s determining will.”

To follow Hirsch’s contention concerning language and verbal meaning, one must understand the philosophical theory of type/token distinction in viewing reality.  That theory sees language and reality in “the contrast between category and a member of that category.  An individual or token is said to exemplify a type:  it possesses the property that characterizes that type.  In philosophy, this distinction is often in linguistic expressions . . .(language) but it can be applied also to objects, properties, and states of affairs (reality).”  This view of linguistic expressions in relation to reality matches the biblical account in which God spoke and creation came into existence.

A Theory of Meaning – What is verbal meaning?

Hirsch offered an answer with a fresh perspective.  “Verbal meaning is a willed type.”  It is willed because an author intended to communicate a message by what he says.  This message is a type-meaning because his view of language usage is conceived in a type/token pattern.  The written text formed from what the author has in mind, takes the shape of the token with all the particular meanings.  At the same time, the author has in mind the message he wants to communicate.  That is the type of meaning.  That awareness of the type of meaning, either consciously or intuitively, guides the writing of the token expressing the sequence of meanings in the text.

As an example, I want to talk to you about an apple tree in my yard, which has produced large, juicy delicious apples for as long as I can remember.  The message talks about “my tree.”  That’s the subject of the type-meaning.  It is shared with other language speakers and determines what I want to talk about.  The type of message may be “my tree is special.”  What makes that tree special is the type of what I want to say about the tree.  That is the complement of the message which is also shared by the language written in the text and is determined by what in particular I write in the text.  The type of message is the identity of what the author wants to communicate.

This model introduced by Hirsch of a type/token pattern of meaning which an author entertains as he communicates, has appeared in other considerations of verbal meaning.

G. B. Caird speaks of the cognitive use of language and identifies three roles of language that correspond to type of meaning.

First, a language type involves a classification of what an author means, that can be arranged in a taxonomy of related meanings.  This taxonomy involves a comparison of language meanings both in level of generality and in relation of common types of meaning at the same level.  So an apple tree is a type of tree or a tree is a type of plant life.  At the same time, tree can be compared to and distinguished from a bush, a vegetable or a flower.  All these are tokens of a type of plant life and express the types of the same level of meaning.

While the classification and comparison can occur with words in reference to subject matter, texts can be classified and compared as literary genre.  While the taxonomy is not precise, yet the cognitive use of language in textual types is still helpful in interpretation.  Literary genre involves different types of compositions, identified by the convention used to communicate (as narrative-history, epistles, or hymns, etc.) while all genre do not include the same cognitive usage, they all include some cognitive usage.

Second, a type-message also involves a generalization.  This sense of type-meaning as message, functions as a working hypothesis by which the interpreter seeks to make sense of every meaning in the token.  The written text as a token is an instance and example of the type of meaning communicated in a message.  The message is inferred from the reading of the text in answer to two questions:

What is the author talking about?  (The subject of the text.)

What does he say about the subject?  (The complement of the text.)

These questions are answered from the reading of the text in the context of the historical occasion and the historical audience to whom the message is addressed.

I want to complete the illustration of the central point Hirsch made before we proceed.  I want you to know about my special tree.  The tree is a real token-reference in my yard.  Examining that tree for yourself is not to get to know my verbal meaning.  That examination is certainly one way to get to know about the tree, but it is not to get to know my verbal meaning about my tree.  That involves reading my token-text which communicates that my tree is special, which is a type-meaning.  That meaning is shared because we both use the language skills we have developed.  That shared meaning is determined by the language used – a tree is a living plant with an elongated single stem.  That type meaning tree is not all that I have in mind, but still it is what I have in mind as I speak.

Of course, I can say more about what makes my tree special – a description of the size and taste of the apples, a report of my memories from past years, or reflect upon the beauty of the foliage, etc.  This is what makes my tree special.  The statements are still communicating at the type level rather than somehow giving access to all that I have in mind.  Now what you know comes closer to what I have in mind, but language can never give expression to all the meanings I have in mind.  Language is an essential, but limited vehicle of communication.

“An expression is a linguistic type and can be used over and over (many manuscripts can be classified as essays), whereas token of a type can be produced once (one manuscript), though it may be reproduced (copied.”  (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 818, 819)

Thus, this type/token view of reality can be applied both to the use of language (as Hirsch does) and to the world of reality about which language speaks.

In a philosophy of language, three questions about communication must be considered.  Since the answers vary, each answer is based on a theory.

Thus, there are three levels of meaning to be considered in interpretation of a literary unit:

  • The willed type of meaning
  • The literary type meaning
  • The text using words/grammar

All three levels of meanings are studied in hermeneutics, but when identifying the verbal meaning of a text, it is the level of the author’s willed type meaning.  The shape of the author’s meaning is the message he willed to communicate.  It is both specific in terms of words developing the text, yet the meaning is exemplary of a willed-type meaning.

The second level of meaning is the literary-type meaning.  In the Bible, this concerns revelation authored by God, literary genre, and historical occasion authored by the human writers.  The interpreter reads the text at the third level of the words, but as he reads, he is asking himself what broader categories does the writer and God intend to frame the message.

A theory of reference – To what and to whom does the text refer? 

Informative and cognitive types of language intend to refer directly to the world about which it speaks or thinks.  Performative types of statements speak about an author or an audience also in a direct fashion.  In either case, the statements refer directly to the author or refer to an audience addressed.  Further, performative type of statements refer to the performance intended.

A theory of truth – Is this text true?

We will adhere to a correspondence theory of truth.  Within that theory, an informative or a cognitive message is true when the author’s intent as expressed in the text to inform or to reason corresponds to reality.  The level of correspondence is not an issue when considering truthfulness since only God has a complete knowledge of reality to which the text has reference.

On the other hand, a performative intent is true, if the author who spoke performs the action to which he committed himself in the text.  This is a promise which is true when the author keeps his word.  In the Bible, these promises ultimately refer to God and keeping his Word may take generations before they are finally realized.

The other type of performative statement is law.  Laws are not true in the sense that they correspond to reality and false when they do not.  Rather God’s laws correspond to what is righteous, just, and good (Rom. 7:13).  When mankind’s response under the claim of the law fails to correspond to what the law demands, mankind is truly exposed to be a sinner.  They rebel against what is righteous, just, and good.

So how does language communicate meaning?  It doesn’t communicate the meaning somehow existing in the world of reality to which it refers.  If the author were to say, “This is a comfortable chair,” the reader would not need to have sat in the chair or even seen the chair to know what he meant.  Nor would the reader need to have in mind all that the author had in mind.

Rather, the meaning is shared at the willed-type level of the language.  “This” means that the author has a particular chair in mind.  It may be one chair in distinction to others, but unless the author says more, it can’t be known whether “this” is used in a comparative fashion.

“Is” is a word of identification, which has reference to a particular chair.

“Comfortable” describes an experience found when someone sits down.  The particular way that it is comfortable is not known from the language.  But the reader shares an understanding at a type level, knowing the vocabulary and having had experiences of comfort when being seated.

“Chair” is also know at a type level in distinction to other pieces of furniture.  As a type, it is distinct from a table, a bench, a stool, or a sofa, etc.  And thus what is shared is determinate at that level of type.  It is not a table, etc.

Thus the language is used by an author to communicate his willed type meaning.

Third, Hirsch’s model of interpretation is necessary because it is compatible with other theories of verbal meaning.  The study of literary genre recognizes the meaning at a type level known by conventions of composition.  In addition, speech-act theory speaks of different ways or types of language usage.  One of the conventions of literary genre is language usage.

Thus Hirsch’s theory of communication and interpretation is necessary because it naturally incorporates valuable theories.  Hirsch’s theory thus provides a comprehensive theory by which other theories can be included or disregarded.

Fourth, perhaps the most helpful role of Hirsch’s theory for biblical interpreters is that can naturally incorporate both divine and human authorship.  To disregard the divine author, the meaning understood as communicated can be distorted.  This seems to be the case in radical critical studies.

Nicolas Wolterstorff (Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflection on the Claim that God Speaks) demonstrates that a type/token medium of language suits a dual authorship.  However, his view of dual authorship is different that B. B. Warfield’s view of inspiration and revelation.  We will adopt Warfield’s view featuring the miracle of inspiration which results in a text that has both divine and human authorship.

Wolterstorff posits the thesis that God speaks by adopting a human composition and sharing the meaning expressed by the human author.  On the other hand, adopting the Warfield model of inspiration, the divine and human authorship share the meaning of the text at the type level of meaning.  This could explain a shared authorship of the text.

Then, the divine author has in mind and fully intends all the particular meanings of the textual sense and in reference to the world of reality.  On the other hand, the human author has in mind enough to compose the text, but may not have in mind all that God intends.  The meaning of the text is recognized at the type level and may by exegesis share the meaning at the token level.  The progress of revelation may provide a basis for the exegesis of God’s fully intended meaning (Gal. 3:16).

 

 

Authors, Texts, and Meanings: Hermeneutics Interview with Elliott E. Johnson, Part 1

Dr. Elliott E. Johnson is Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He has given a career of study to biblical and philosophical hermeneutics and Bible Exposition.  He has been a member of his church since the mid-1960’s, and there he has given himself to more than 40 years of discipling men, and training teachers to understand the Scriptures and teach it to others.  Over two decades ago he authored Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction (Zondervan), in order to explain the workings of the art and science of interpretation.  He graciously has agreed to an interview related to current discussion in hermeneutics.  (I will post the interview intermittently rather than in its entirety immediately.)

1. Dr. Johnson, thank you for taking time for this interview.  Explain where your love for hermeneutics and Bible exposition began.

I graduated from a program in engineering at Northwestern University with a sense of a call to ministry, but very little exposure to the Scripture.  In addition, I had grown up in a church denomination that was emotion driven, and in the years since its revivalistic beginnings, it had been in decline in spiritual fervor.  Was there any normative authority to maintain stability?  And this was combined with my own personal spiritual struggles.  Was there no one or nothing to help me?

At that point I began attending another church which impressed me with two characteristics:  living Biblical sermons and men and women who gave evidence in their lives of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I began to grow as a Christian as I completed the program in engineering.  As I read the Bible on my own, more and more fresh ideas struck me in a small group Bible study.  Nonetheless, I had so many questions that weren’t yet answered.  As I arrived at graduation I came to two conclusions:

  • I was called to some form of ministry, and
  • I needed to learn the Bible

The next really big step came in the realization that I needed the combination of personal Bible study as well as study at the hands of others in classes or in commentaries.  The personal side of the study really exploded.  I suppose part of the influence came from the technical education.  Ideas like:

  • It is more important to know how to find an answer than to have all the answers
  • In order to grasp the meaning of a part of the design, that part must be seen as a component of the whole

These ideas and others directed my interest toward hermeneutics and exposition of biblical texts.  Hermeneutics considers the strategies for reaching valid conclusions about textual meanings.  While this study considers any text (general hermeneutics), more commonly the study is limited to biblical texts (sacred hermeneutics).  Yet it remains to ask, “And how does sacred hermeneutics differ from general hermeneutics?”

Exposition is the unfolding of the meanings of biblical texts, but the task is more completely accomplished when the component texts are recognized as parts of a whole text.  The metaphor of “unfolding” presents the image of a whole, a closed envelope that is opened portion by portion.  Then the whole is recognized as a combination of all the parts that have been unfolded.  At the outset, the whole was seen as a compact folded up whole.  Exposition is the unfolding.

These considerations grasped my imagination in the years that followed.  It has been an adventure that guided the development of my personal growth in Christ, as well as development of a ministry of Bible teaching.  If this is your calling, let’s talk about aspects of the journey along the road to becoming a bible expositor.

2. What do you mean by “meaning” and “exegesis” in the task of hermeneutics?

Two important terms need to be defined:  “meaning” and “exegesis.”

Meaning is the stuff hermeneutics is working with.  It is an abstract term and thus hard to get your mind around.  So here goes:  Meaning is what a person is conscious of or is in search of.  The Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines the verb, to mean, and the noun, meaning.

The verb, mean, is to have in mind, as a purpose, intention;

Or, mean is to intend to convey, show, or indicate.

In both definitions, we use language.  Commonly language is used to think or to communicate.  Thus, hermeneutics limits the considerations to verbal meaning.

The noun, meaning, is related to the three basic components in verbal communication:  Author, Text, Interpretation.

The author defines verbal meaning; it is the thing one intends to convey by language.

The text determines and shares what is meant; it is the thing that is conveyed or signified by language—the purport.

The interpretation decodes the language to recognize what is meant; it is the sense in which something is understood.

So verbal meaning is what the author intended to communicate as he composed the text.

Exegesis is like exposition, but with a narrower focus.  Both terms refer to tasks of interpretation of a verbal text, and both terms refer to tasks of unfolding meanings which the author intended to communicate as he expressed it in the text.  The focus needs to be both in the particulars in the text and on the larger segments of literary composition as well as the text as a whole.  Exposition focuses on these larger segments while exegesis unfolds the component meanings of individual texts.  Such careful readings of texts are essential in biblical interpretation where individual statements of revelation are often critical to the message communicated.

 

Eric C. Redmond:

Reblogging from Daniel B. Wallace

Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:

As I was reading Romans 9 recently I noticed that the chapter begins asyndetically—that is, without a conjunction or other marker to connect it with the preceding. This is fairly rare in Greek and, apart from its use in staccato-like commands and aphorisms, almost always means one of two things: either a total disconnect from the preceding or a connection so strong that it would be superfluous to add the conjunction.

Paul uses asyndeton at the beginning of a major paragraph nine times in Romans. In 2.17, 10.1, 11.33, and 13.8 it is obvious that the same topic is in view. (On a smaller scale, see 2 Tim 3.16—which obviously connects to the previous verse; cf. also Phil 4.4b.) In Rom 12.9, 13.8, 16.3, and 16.21 the connection is not as clear, though it is probably there in most of these instances. Romans 13.1 offers the most obvious break without…

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The 2013 Calvin Reading Group

Reblogging, from Lumbering Brown:  The 2013 Calvin Reading Group.

November 16, 2012 by Aaron

I spoke on the phone yesterday with Bliss Spillar IV, with whom previously I had only limited but encouraging interaction with over Twitter and Facebook. He’s the kind of man you only have to talk to once to know he has great enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a love for the people in his community. He is a self-professed “Jack of all Trades and Master of Few”, assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Churchblogger, as well as theActs29 Network coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic region. And pertaining to this post, he is the organizer of the upcoming 2013 Calvin Reading Group. Bliss was both grateful and surprised to have discovered that his webpage, which is dedicated to this reading group, was featured among the link list (“Right Now“, Nov. 14th) on the Gospel Coalition. I was too. It’s great that this reading group is getting some exposure, and I hope to proliferate that exposure by blogging about it.

I spoke with Bliss because he had accidentally been kicked out of his own Facebook group. He subsequently made me an admin so I could allow him back in. Feeling like I should at least talk to the brother, I obtained his number and gave him a ring. My involvement now is only as an administrator on the group’s Facebook page. However, I plan to be participating in our future, online Google hangouts (facilitated by Bliss), and chronicling the group’s progression here on my blog.

As any one of the three people who read Lumbering Brown, or anyone who knows me otherwise would attest to, I am the most milquetoast and understated advocate of Reformed theology (summarily referred to as Calvinism). Irony intended. On January 1st, I will be joining the growing flock of Christians who desire community, interaction, accountability and mutual-edification, as we endeavor to read through one of the greatest and most influential pieces of literature in the history of Christian theology: John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

For anyone new to the Reformed tradition, anyone for or against Calvinism, anyone who has been Reformed all of their lives, or anyone simply curious, I encourage you to join. Make sure you check out Bliss’ blog for details.

A Helpful Resource (so I hear):

Greg Forster is interviewed by Justin Taylor about his book, “The Joy of Calvinism.” Admittedly, I haven’t read the book. But it is sitting on one of our shelves, dog-eared from both my wife’s reading and the one person to whom she had lent it. I’ve heard nothing but good about it.

I will post other resources from my own bookshelf in the months to come.

Deepening the Next Generation: The New Macedonia Baptist Church Family Conference 2012

The New Macedonia Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, DC, kindly invited me to lead a workshop at their Family Conference 2012 entitled, “Big Truths for Little Kids—Preparing the Next Generation to Advance the Kingdom of God.” In the workshop I speak on the benefit of using historic catechisms in order to discuss the truths of Scriptures with our children daily. I wish that I could convince all Christian parents to do such. Part of the intent of the historic catechisms is to train families in the faith so that children will continue in the practice of the faith as part of their daily lives. This would be repeated over and over again in successive generations.

I gave examples of how to utilize the catechism from Starr Meade’s, Training Heats, Teaching Minds (P&R). I have found this work extremely beneficial in bringing my own children along in the faith, or, as our church covenant says, “[educating] religiously our children.” As noted in the class, once we do the daily reading of the catechism, the devotional help by Meade, and the reading of the Scriptures, my children ask all of the questions. Much of what I do is facilitate a discussion about the truth. As a parent, you do not need to know all Biblical and theological things in order to lead your children to deepen in their faith. You simply need grace from Christ to pray and be faithful.

This year the Redmonds’ used the Heidelberg Catechism for the first time, after many years of using the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We almost have finished the entire Heidleberg. I also would recommend it for daily family times centered around the word of God.

If you need more argument for the importance of daily teaching of our children the truths of the faith, I would recommend J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett’s, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way (Baker). If your real fear in training your children is that you do not know enough Bible and theology to answer potential questions from them (and your real problem is not that you simply do not wish to make the effort to faithfully meet with your family responsibly – cf. Dt. 4:9; 6:1-9; 11:19; Psalm 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15), I would recommend too Packer’s, Growing in Christ, Concise Theology, 18 Words, and the Knowing God Devotional Journal. You could make each of these works part of your own daily, personal Bible study for all of 2013. You would greatly increase in your knowledge of God in Christ, and your joy in him, by giving only fifteen minutes a day to such an endeavor. Your family and your church will benefit greatly from your growth too. I would recommend these works also for those who have no children to raise, but simply wish to grow more in the faith.

Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

Posts Related to African American Culture for my Friends at Covenant College

This week I had the joy of speaking on, “The Advancing Gospel and Cultural Conflicts,” for Covenant College’s Global Gospel Advancement Week. Covenant is an outstanding school. I am grateful for their invitation, hospitality, and an overall gracious visit.

The links below are to some blog posts and other articles reflective of my attempts to interact with culture – African American culture in particular – as a Christian, as I mentioned before my Friday morning talk. For members of the Covenant community who are looking for my book that makes an attempt at cultural apologetics and evangelism toward the skepticisms of African American men, please click on the book cover in the right margin, or the “Where Are All the Brothers?” tab at the top of the page. Also, my social media contact links are listed.

Covenant, may your tribe increase! Thank you for a great week.

On Culture

No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Julian Bond is Wrong on Same Sex Marriage

Atheism Behind the Black Church Veil

Reaching Men: Culture, Church, and the Gospel

Obama, Gay Marriage, and the Black Church Vote

The President’s Church Dilemma

The Gray Matter of African American Syncretism: Giving Honor to the King of Pop

How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Review of John: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust), by R. C. Sproul, Themelios 35.2:302-304 (See the last two paragraphs.)

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No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Question 6 may be the most important issue in the upcoming Maryland election. Its passage would be the first victory on referendum for same sex marriage in the country. An electorate’s support of the legislation would mean a swell in the tide against traditional marriage for our nation. All other institutions in Maryland would be radically harmed too, for the family affects all structures in society.

In an effort to help to the passage of Question 6 find more success this season than the hometown baseball team, Julian Bond has stepped in as designated hitter. The well-known activist is playing Civil Rights Leader-in-Chief on the issue, framing the question as just another of the many rights issues to which he has given his whole life to fighting. While there are moral problems associated with framing same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, it is not immoral for a rights activist to side with a platform generically framed as a rights issue.

It is hypocritical, however, for a member of the clergy to side with such an issue, because this issue conflicts with the tenants of the Christian faith. The role of the cleric is to follow sacred Scripture, regardless of how disparate its teachings are with societal norms. Differing with societal norms is the nature of sacred Scripture, as it beholds the norms of what Augustine termed, “The City of God.”

Historically, the one called to proclaim the word of the Lord often found himself in jeopardy by being at odds with the general population and heads of states. The Hebrew prophets Moses and Jeremiah were among those who preached against oppression and other moral evils at the threat of their lives. The evangelist John the Baptist lost his head for not looking the other way at King Herod’s adulterous act. Many other preachers have encountered imprisonment, even martyrdom, for preaching the truth when society at large needed a moral corrective. The Twenty First Century preacher’s task has not changed, even when most of society has sought to broaden the definition of marriage beyond Scripture’s “male and female.”

In recent TV commercials, Maryland pastors Delman Coates and Donté Hickman indicate that their support for Question 6 concerns the equal and fair treatment of all by the State. “I wouldn’t want someone denying my rights based on their religious views, [therefore] I shouldn’t deny others’ based on mine,” these ministers say. They also erroneously propose that Question 6 is about “protecting religious freedom.”

The men and women who make up the General Assembly have religious views that contribute to their decision-making processes. The current prevailing view on Question 6 is that government and religion should remain in separate spheres. In general, religion should have no contribution to public policy, and religious views are simply value-based judgments. Those holding this view do not take into consideration the grounding of many Christian beliefs in historical facts, and that Christianity’s arguments for truth have held up to intellectual and academic scrutiny for many centuries prior to the signing of the first law in Maryland until now. The moral codes of the church are therefore being dismissed and denied by Maryland officials based on the majority’s preference to keep religion away from the legislative conclusions of the General Assembly.

By Hickman and Coates’ reasoning, this is not fair to Marylanders. Support of Question 6 undermines any religious freedom supposedly protected by this law. In voicing their support of this Question, the two clergymen saw off the moral and civil branches on which we all sit.

Moreover, contemporary society has no need for members of the clergy to sanction popular opinion. A plethora of professional pundits, bloggers, comedians, scholars, and politicians fulfill that role. Rather, the City of Man needs members of the clergy to be the voice of God within a culture. If the public square is not the appropriate place to discuss moral matters from a religiously exclusivist perspective, and the parish pulpit continues to acquiesce to this postmodern philosophy, soon there will be no place to voice an alternate moral view. Thoughtful Marylanders, and all Americans, should see how this too would be neither fair nor right.

Related post: Julian Bond is Wrong on Same-Sex Marriage and Two Ads Marylanders Need to Watch

Related resource: D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Crossway).