Essays in Honor of Elliott E. Johnson on Hermeneutics


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House-Weiland-front-395x600This morning, at the Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) Alumni Breakfast at the ETS Annual Meeting, we honored Dr. Elliott E. Johnson with a festschrift, entitled, The Theory and Practice of Biblical Hermeneutics: Essays in Honor of Elliott E. Johnson (Lampion Press). H. Wayne House and Forrest S. Weiland served as editors. The book recognizes Dr. Johnson for more than 40 years of ministry at DTS, and his influence in the field of contemporary biblical hermeneutics. The work has contributions from Johnson’s present and former colleagues, and former students, including Weiland, Norman Geisler, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Charles Baylis, Mark Bailey, Stephen Bramer, and Stephen S. Kim. Most graciously, E. D. Hirsch provided the forward. Several of the chapters intend to demonstrate the theory and method advanced by Johnson in Expository Hermeneutics and many of his other essays.

I gladly contributed a chapter: “The Very Right of God: The Meaning of Luke 13:1-9, and Criticism(s) of John Piper’s View of the Role of God in Tragedy: A Narrative Analysis” (185-203). The essay allows me to honor my former advisor and friend, who has most shaped my hermeneutical theory. It, too, provides me an opportunity to interact honorably with some of the thinking of John Piper, also my friend and the contemporary theologian who has most shaped my theology of the Christian life. Both men acknowledge Hirsch in their interpretive theories. A version of the essay shortened by the editors, due to space limitations, appears in the book. I have attached a pdf of the originally submitted essay below.

Congratulations to Drs. House, Weiland, and Johnson on a worthy project!


The Very Right of God March 2014 pdf The Very Right of God March 2014 pdf


Zimmermann and Wright on Parables


parables1parables2At the ETS Annual Meeting I have been able to leaf through copies of Ruben Zimmerman’s, Puzzling the Parables of Jesus: Methods and Interpretation (Fortress), and Stephen Wright’s, Jesus the Storyteller (Westminster/John Knox). Both look like texts I need for upcoming work and courses in the parables. I am thankful for Zimmermann’s work on paroimia (παροιμία) in John. All current discussions in NT parables should include Johannine paroimia (and other non-synoptic paroimia/parabolé (παραβολή) in the NT). Wright’s work also is appropriate for use by the non-specialist in the pew who simply loves Jesus and desires to know him through the parables.





On the Ecclesial Theologian


Pastor TheologianHiestand and Wilson write on Calvin as an ecclesial theologian, “[Calvin] changed the world because he wrote as a robust, theologically informed, intelligent, prophetic pastor who understood — as a matter of vocation — what is was to have the weight of souls upon his shoulders.”  – The Pastor Theologian, 86. May the Lord raise up scores upon scores of self-conscious, intentional, ecclesial theologians (and academic theologians) with this same theological burden, for the sake of His church in this generation and the generations to come.


Join Hiestand and Wilson, Kevin Vanhoozer, Peter Leithart, James K. A. Smith, me, and many others at this year’s Center for Pastor Theologians’ Conference: The Pastor as Theologian: Identities and Possibilities.


More on Literal, Literal Interpretation, and Literalism


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imagesIn our doctoral seminars this week, we keep coming back to the concept(s) of “’literal’ hermeneutics.” Evangelicals long have affirmed that “literal” refers to both “a system that takes what the Bible claims to be true of itself as a necessary framework for interpretation,” and two commitments within that system: (1) “A commitment to understanding that the Bible’s authority is embedded in the meanings expressed in the words of the text,” and (2) “meanings expressed in the Biblical text are true and have reference to what is real unless the context indicates otherwise.”[1] They acknowledge with Longman, as he expressed a dispensational understanding of “literal” in discussion with dispensationalists as a covenantalist: “Indeed, that is a part of a literal approach to treat as metaphor what is metaphoric.”[2]

While interacting with, Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters, we came across this quote:

Galileo thought that these passages should be interpreted not according to their strict, grammatical meaning but according to a different set of rules: rules that take into account the complexities of communication such as metaphor, symbolism, and imagery…. Galileo had the courage — or what his inquisitors regarded as hubris — to read the Bible with sensitivity toward its various genres…. His statement was not a literal description of fact. It describes something different than what its grammar implies; we know this intuitively.[3]

I would suggest that to interpret according to “strict, grammatical meaning” is to “take into account the complexities of communication such as metaphor, symbolism, and imagery.” The aforementioned suggested dichotomy between the two concepts is false. So while Galileo did “read the Bible with sensitivity toward its various genres,” it is not true that “his statement was not a literal description of fact.” It was a literal description of fact, for literal takes into account that which is figurative.

Now, to contradict myself in order to make my point even clearer, I agree with the statements about Galileo above. For as I read the above, based on Galileo’s critics’ understanding of Galileo (which I elided from the quotes), and the contrast of “strict” with “complexities of communication,” and the contrast between “literal description” and “what its grammar implies,” I know that the authors of those selections of quotes mean “literalistic” when speaking of “literal.” If I make a literalistic reading “literal” rather than a literal reading of “literal”—one that accounts for the use of the term in its grammatical, historical, literary context, then I will misread “literal” as I did intentionally in the previous paragraph while yet correctly defining “literal.” Yet it is my recognition of “literal” readings’ accounting for literary clues that allows me to critique the paragraph on Galileo, set up a “literal” straw man, and then make a literal critique of my use of “literal” such that it reveals my “literalism” when first discussing another’s use of “literal.” Even so, it is my recognition of “literal” readings’ accounting for literary clues that allows me to make a double-entendre in the second use of “literal” in the previous sentence. So I am not ready to abandon a literal hermeneutic; neither are you if you are trying to make sense of what I just said.


[1] Elliott E. Johnson, “Literal Interpretation: A Plea for Consensus.” Paper delivered at the 1992 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference,, accessed September 24, 2015.

[2] Tremper Longman III, “What I Mean by Historical-Grammatical Exegesis: Why I am not a Literalist,” Grace Theological Journal (1990), 148.

[3] Kenton L. Sparks, “Response to James K. Hoffmeier,” in In Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters, James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham, and Kenton Sparks, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015, 63.

Be Filled: Ruth 1 – 4 Rendered Artistically and Simply



UntitledYou have to love it when a student really grasps a concept you have taught and makes it his or her own. I briefly explained my thoughts on Ruth 1 — that it portrays a contrast between Naomi’s views of her circumstances in opposition to God’s view of her circumstances (“full-empty” vs. “empty-full”), and that it is not a simple love story or a paean to a heroine who powerfully manipulates a man in order to rescue a sister in need. My MBI student, “Eli,” ran with it and brought me the briefest summarization of her idea of the meaning of Ruth 1-4: “Be filled.” She is so right, expressing it with Micron pen and watercolor wash.


In the DMV: Opportunity to Sip & Shop the Sugar Cookie Cupcake




DMV FRIENDS AND FAM: I’m not sure all that a “Sip & Shop” event entails. However, since the SUGAR COOKIE CUPCAKE is part of the main event, you need to get over there! Please come out and support SweEat Dreams N Sunshine on Sunday, October 4 from 1-4. Habana Village 3rd Floor, 1834 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009. SweEat Dreams N Sunshine  is my favorite cupcake company, and the Sugar Cookie Cupcake is the best cupcake on the planet. Now, can we get one of these events in the foodies’ town called “Chicago?”

#Cupcakes #Cakes #FromScratch #CustomCakes#CustomCupcakes #SugarCookieCupcakes#RedVelvet #RedVelvetCupcakes#RedVelvetChocolateChipCupcakes#PersonalizedCupcakes #PersonalizedCakes#WashingtonDCCakes #DMVCakes#WashingtonDCCupcakes #DMVCupcakes#WashingtonDCBaker #DCBaker #DMVBaker#BeHappyAndEatCake #SweEatDreamsNSunshine

Remembering September 11: A Prayer


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imagesThis week, as I leave Chicago’s Union Station and walk past the Willis Tower heading toward my CTA train station, I have thought of the chaos I immediately would experience if a terror attack came to the former Sears Tower while I am within its vicinity. I’m not sure I can place myself in the shoes of those who ran from the falling World Trade Center’s twin towers, or who lost loved ones in the attacks. However, my heart and prayer today is with you who were most affected by that infamous day in 2001. May the the God of all comfort be with you through the mercy that is Jesus Christ himself. May he work justice on your behalf with mercy. May he mercifully reveal himself as the most beautiful Savior and most terrifying Judge. May he disclose to you, in mercy and love, the message of the fall of the tower of Slioam and the parable of the Vinedresser and fig tree — Lk. 13:1-9: “Unless you repent…” — so that you might know his peace. May the death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection from the dead be your hope as you look to him alone to see your tears, heal your heart, overcome your pain, and provide the joy of his mercy.


Anyabwile: Reviving the Black Church


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41zibWJCT6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I just received my book notice for Thabiti Anyabwile’s, Reviving the Black Church: A Call to Reclaim a Sacred Institution (B&H Books). I have longed to see a book written of this type with a Christ-centered focus as opposed to a social-centered focus. So I am very excited about this book, which in some sense will complement Anybwile’s earlier work, The Decline of African American Theology (IVP). Churches of all types need reviving. Anyabwile graciously directs his focus and hope to a particular segment of the Bride of Christ. You can gain a sense of his hope from his recent CT interview, “Tough Love for the Black Church.”

Within my endorsement for the book (which I am not sure was included) I say,

Unflinching in his call to recover a New Testament church, Thabiti’s proposal is sure to draw naysayers and enemies as he prioritizes identifying the people of God over seeking social significance. But such critics should give the work a full and judicious hearing, for the sake of the exaltation of our people, and for the salvation of people everywhere. Out of deep love for the Black Church, Thabiti has spoken up loudly and timely, with grace and truth.

Congrats, TA! Thank you for providing us with another great resource — another that demonstrates the practicality of Reformed Theology for contemporary African American culture.

All Good Things for Us to Enjoy, Including Cake



photo.PNGEvery so often, you come across a sign or post that reminds you that theology touches all areas of life, including one’s food intake. My theology tells me that eating pound cake and cupcakes – yes, in moderation – falls within the joy of the creation–that the Lord has created all good things for us to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). So, let’s order some cake! (My real sympathies to those who have allergies that will not allow you to enjoy cake. I cannot enjoy cheese, which has removed pizza, mac-n-cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, and the like – some of my favorite foods – from my plate, so I feel a pain akin to yours.)

By the way, you can indulge in the Sugar Cookie Cupcake at Cupcakes by Lauren: Tell the shop I sent you!


I Have Two Men’s 33 DVD Sets to Giveaway


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vol-6I have enjoyed Lifeway’s Men’s 33 Series. The 2-DVD set in each of the six volumes in the series intends to build-up men in every area of life. The authors propose it as a “journey” to authentic manhood. Each DVD invites in both unbelievers and believers by examining common perceptions of various aspects of manhood through personal interviews with people on the street – interviews related to the purpose of marriage, the goal of fatherhood/childrearing, the value of work, etc….

The speakers in volume 5 – Bryan Carter, Tierce Green, and John Bryson – do a fantastic job of talking to men from all walks of life with respect to marriage – single, happily married, unhappily married, immature-Christianly married, mature-Christianly married. The videos provide a means of welcoming unbelieving men into a Gospel-proclaiming session without using exclusively Christian language or being preachy. Even when theological terms are used, the speakers define the terms in simple words and analogies. I would suggest that many men who are skeptical about the church would find the video sessions to be welcoming and accessible, and that they would find great agreement with the hosts’ pictures of the realities of marriage in a fallen world. Each lesson is simple to understand, and the speakers review their talks at the end of each discussion.

A great feature of the video sequence is that Paul Tripp is a guest to each session. Tripp brings to the series a wealth of wisdom from years of professional counseling and church ministry. I enjoyed hearing Paul say to a hypothetical woman disillusioned about her marriage and mate (in classic Paul Tripp style), “Well it is the man you married; the man you dated was a fake.”

An accompanying workbook contains articles to supplement the study. The series has links to its own website and social media sites.

I HAVE TWO SETS OF MEN’S 33 VOLUME 5 FROM THE PUBLISHER TO GIVE AWAY TO TWO CHICAGO-AREA PASTORS. I will give the sets to two Chicago-area pastors of churches with Sunday worship attendance of 250 or less, whose church’s membership is predominately an American-born minority (or minorities), whose church is within the boundaries of the city of Chicago proper, whose annual church receipts for 2014 were under $750,000, and who have a means of integrating the series into an education or men’s group module this fall. If you qualify, please leave comments below explaining how you will use the study to build-up men in your congregation, and what you will encourage men in your congregation to do tangibly in order to invite unbelieving male friends to the sessions—that is, how you will help get the Gospel to men in Chicago. Include your email, Facebook ID, and/or Twitter ID so that I can contact you if you are selected to receive the series. I will take comments for 72 hours following this post. I will draw two recipients at my discretion and will notify the receivers. I will have your packet my office at MBI for you or a proxy to pick up. Let’s build up some men!



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