Polygamy In the Bible A Sordid Tale, by Lionel Windsor

A good response to those who care little about doing their due diligence in gaining perspective before asking provocative questions of or making provocative statements about Christianity (along the same lines of Keller’s response concerning why Christians can eat foods off limits in the OT but still hold to the OT’s teaching on homosexuality (of course, the latter teaching holds in the NT also).

Christian leaders were being asked about their opposition to proposals to redefine marriage, and were discussing the Bible’s view of marriage. At one point, the interviewer asked a question which is often brought up in these contexts: Doesn’t the Old Testament condone polygamy? There was, of course, a question behind the question: Since the Old Testament says polygamy is OK, why should we listen to it on any moral issue?

Why did this interviewer think the Old Testament condones polygamy? Clearly he’s expressing a common point of view. Where has it come from? I reckon it stems from the fact that a lot of people in our world don’t really know what the Bible is about. A large number of people (maybe as a result of ineffectual communication by Christian teachers) think the Bible–and especially the Old Testament–is just a list of moral commandments, along with some stories to give us examples of how to be good. So when they do get around to reading the Old Testament, they read it with this moralistic framework in mind. And they find quite a few stories where the lead character is a polygamist. Furthermore, they don’t find any explicit commands that say “Thou shalt not commit polygamy”. So, since they are assuming that the Old Testament is just a book of moral commandments and morality tales, they conclude that the Bible says polygamy is OK.

The problem, of course, is that the Bible–even the Old Testament–is not really a book of commandments and morality tales. The Bible does of course contain commandments, and lots of narratives. But hardly any of the narratives are about morally upright heroes who keep God’s commandments. Most of the narratives are about God’s actions and plans to save immoral human beings. Most of the human characters in Bible stories (even some of the most faithful ones) are morally dubious at best; in fact, many of their activities are downright sordid. You’re not supposed to read these stories as direct examples for your own life; you’re meant to read them to understand God’s actions in the midst of a tragic human history.

Go here for the rest of this instructive post.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Woefully and Tragically Fallen, by Steve Cornell

An article giving consideration to a holistic approach to Christian counseling.  Thought-provoking read, whether you entirely agree or not.  A taste:

Evangelicals have a significant stake in the decision-making nature of human beings. Terms like belief and unbelief, obedience and disobedience, are part of a biblical grammar of responsibility. Accountability and culpability are essential concepts in relation to the bad news about sin, the good news of the divine gift of salvation, and the expectation of final judgment. Typically, only extreme cases of mental disability find exemption from this understanding of willful human agency and accountability.

With this longstanding view of human responsibility, it should not be too surprising that evangelicals—particularly in the fields of counseling—have been reticent to accept the relatively recent findings of medical research that attribute moods and behaviors to neuro-physiological conditions. As neuro-chemical deficiencies became an established social narrative for explaining a host of personal problems ranging from depression and anxiety to learning deficiencies, suspicion of these findings has grown. Some evangelical leaders worry that the findings of neuroscience assault biblically based theological conclusions about humanity, sin, and even salvation.

For the full article, go here.

All the Treasures of Wisdom, Part II

1 Cor 1.24, the Holy Ghost tells us that “Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God:” not the essential Wisdom of God, as he is the eternal Son of the Father (upon which account he is called “Wisdom” in the Proverbs, chap. 8.22-23); but as he is crucified, 1 Cor 1.23.  As he is crucified, so he is the wisdom of God; that is, all that wisdom which God layeth forth for the discovery and manifestation of himself, and for the saving of sinners, which makes foolish all the wisdom of the world, — that is all in Christ crucified; held out in him, by him, and to be obtained only from him.  And thereby in him do we see the glory of God, 2 Cor 3.18.  For he is not only said to be “the wisdom of God,” but also to be “make unto us wisdom,” 1 Cor 1.30.  He is made, not by creation, but ordination and appointment, wisdom unto us; not only by teaching us wisdom (by a metonymy of the effect for the cause), as he is the great prophet of his church, but also because by the knowing of him we become acquainted with the wisdom of God, — which is our wisdom . . . This, however verily promised, is thus only be be had.  The sum of what is contended for is asserted in terms, Col 2.3, “In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There are two things that might seem to have some colour in claiming a title and interest in this business: — 1. Civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; 2. Ability of learning and literature; — but God rejecteth both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed.  There is in the world that which is called “understanding;”  but it comes to nothing.  There is that which is called “wisdom;” but it is turned into folly, 1 Cor 1.19, 20, “God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world.”  And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubtless there is not), without the knowledge of God, Jer 8.9, it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.”  He is not seen at another time, John 1.18, nor known upon any other account, but only the revelation of the Son.  He hath manifested him from his own bosom; and therefore, verse 9, it is said that he is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” — the true Light, which hath it in himself: and none hath any but from him; and all have it who come unto him.  He who doth not so, is in darkness.

John Owen, Communion with God, vol 2 of 16, 79-80.

All the Treasures of Wisdom, Part 1

In On Communion with God, John Owen undertook to show Jesus Christ as the treasury of all true and divine wisdom in order to secure the affections of our hearts for Him.  As there is much that Owen wrote worth setting before you, I will consign myself to “parts.”  This is part 1:

It is not, I suppose, any difficult task to persuade men, convinced of immortality and judgment to come, that the main of their wisdom lies in this, even to find out such a righteousness as will accompany them forever, and abide the severe trial of God himself.  Now, all the wisdom of the world is but folly, as to the discovery of this thing.  The utmost that man’s wisdom can do, is but to find out most wretched, burdensome, and vexatious ways of perishing eternally.  All the treasures of this wisdom are hid in Christ; he “of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness,” 1 Cor 1.30.

John Owen, Communion with God, vol 2 of 16, 105.

The Distortion of Humanity

Written in 1986, Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema hits the proverbial nail on the head with the following “prophetical” paragraphs concerning the factors that threaten human values and the necessity of the Christian/biblical conception of man (I cannot agree more with much of this having watched an inordinate amount of news over the past couple of days that has highlighted afresh for me the effects of sin upon the human mind – we are truly on the brink of being a mindless, thoughtless society of persons in love with every wind of politically devised doctrine that raises itself up against that which is true and godly – anyway, to Hoekema who captures precisely this with regard to the doctrine of man):

Among the factors that threaten human values today are the following: the growing supremacy of technology; the growth of bureaucracy; the increase of mass-production methods; and the growing impact of mass media.  Forces such as these tend to depersonalize humanity.  New developments in biology, psychology, and sociology increase the possibility of the manipulation of the masses by the few.  Practices such as artificial insemination, test-tube babies, abortion, chemical control of behavior, euthanasia, genetic engineering, and the like raise questions about the dignity of human life.  Add to this such burning issues as racism, the problem of alienation (old versus young, conservative versus progressive, majority versus minority groups), the problem of equality between women and men, and the problem of decreasing respect for authority, and one can see why the question “What is man?” has acquired new urgency today.

Hoekema concludes:

Since each of the above-named views of man (idealistic – Greek philosophy; materialistic – Marxism) considers one aspect of the human being to be ultimate, apart from any dependence on or responsibility to God the Creator, each of these anthropologies is guilty of idolatry: of worshipping an aspect of creation in the place of God.  If, as the Bible teaches, the most important thing about man is that he is inescapably related to God, we must judge as deficient any anthropology which denies that relatedness.

Hoekema is right on target – in 1986!  24 years later, the hands of a select few in the tabloids and mass media have taken what it means to be human in the biblical sense and turned it on its head for the masses all over the world, so that what the masses see and hear on television or talk radio from sin-effected, thoughtless, self-contradictory, nihilistic people predisposed to wickedness and everything that opposes the Creator becomes, as it were, incontrovertible fact.  A fact that burdeningly signals the depravity of the times and the necessity of endurance on the part of Christians.  Only God can work that divine work of redemption that restores the human being – every faculty, soul, mind, and the use of the body – to its awakened and, well, redeemed state.  Let us hope, thus, in Him and the gospel that He has given for this purpose – the renewal of fallen humanity in the image of His Son.

Reflections on Genesis 6:5: Depravity and Grace

In the past couple of weeks, the Lord has grabbed my heart for meditation upon four verses in particular: Genesis 6:5, Psalm 42:2, Isaiah 42:3, and Hebrews 12:14.  Over the next couple of days, I hope to post some reflections upon them in that order.

Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

A part of, if not the whole of, wickedness as it is defined by God is “that every intention of the thoughts of [the sinners] heart was [is] only evil continually.”  The doctrine of the verse is the depravity of man, total, universal, and natural.  It is the pervasiveness of wickedness that is prominent in the passage.  It is not some of our intentions, but every intention.  It is not just the intentions of our actions, but our thoughts also.  But it cannot be relegated to our thoughts alone, for it regards the thoughts of the heart, and out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks and the man acts.  It is not that our intentions are sometimes good, sometimes neutral, sometimes evil; but only evil.  And there is no respite from this depravity – it is only evil continually!  This is the condition of every man apart from the saving grace of God which regenerates the sinner, imparts a new heart with new proclivities, new loves, desires, passions, and pulses for God, grants a new spiritual principle, the Holy Spirit and resurrection and eternal life.  Now the sinner can take no comfort from the idea that he is not seen by God, for “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.”  The Lord saw it!  It is the illusion of the wicked, even mine prior to the mercy of Christ in my own life, that God will not find out our sins and hold us accountable for them.  They say to the righteous, “Where is your God?” (Ps 42:10); they say in their hearts, “There is no God” (Ps 53:1).  The Psalmist writes, “[The wicked] says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it. . . . Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account’?  But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands . . . break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none” (Ps 10:11, 13-15).  Indeed, such depravity, wickedness, evil, and sin is noted by God, seen by God, and will be called to account before God.  There is no wiggle room for the sinner before God.

Now it is a great mercy that God, Himself, overcomes our wicked nature by sovereign grace, that God regenerates the heart of the wicked and declares Him righteous on the basis of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ; for what we read of in Genesis 6:5 is not at all the case with Christ.  While He put on the likeness of sinful flesh, He Himself was without sin; He was in His humanity what we all were created by God to be.  Therefore, bearing our penalty on account of our sin as He did on His cross, He made substitution for sinners, intercession for transgressors, so that all who repent and believe in Him might be forgiven their sins by God, given Christ’s righteousness, reconciled to God, invested with resurrection and eternal life, indwelled by the Spirit of the living God.  Therefore Jesus is the Way from, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” to “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2).  Grace manifest supremely in the cross, where the depravity of men climaxes in the face of the highest display of mercy, is the only Way of salvation in every possible sense of the biblical concept.  Only Christ and Him crucified can save the sinner from their utter helplessness to save themselves; only Christ and Him crucified can save the sinner from the insurmountable depths of their depravity; only Christ and Him crucified can bring such a wretch as me to eternal glory.  Only Christ has accomplished such a great salvation, and can speak thus: “Remove the filthy garments from him. . . . Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zech 3:4).  May God be praised for His glorious grace!

A Necessary Comparison

“Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.

– John Calvin