The Eschatological Background of the Genesis Flood

Eschatology of the Old Testament   -     By: Geerhardus Vos<br /><br />
The flood in Genesis 7-8 was an historical event with many layers of meaning.  It was a time when Yahweh  judged the wicked justly – but it was more than that.  Geerhardus Vos explains (note: “deluge” is another term for “flood”).

“The cosmic extent of the deluge-event is both negative and positive.

First, negatively, the flood destroyed the world (cf. Gen. 6).  This is a catastrophic world-judgment.  This fact is confirmed by pagan mythology, where it is associated with the chaos-flood out of which the world arose.  The creation and the deluge both have cosmic significance.  It was not confined to man; but the purpose was that God repented that he had created the world.

Second, positively, it is the commencement of a new world-order.  The waters receded on the first day of the month and the first month of the year (cf. Gen. 8:13); therefore a new year.  It also possibly attaches itself to the periodicity [time periods] of history and the berit [covenant] principle.  Periodicity is generally shown by the covenants that appear at the beginnings of periods.

Now the deluge and the post-diluvian (post-flood) order of things prefigure eschatological crisis and the eschatological state.  In other words, the deluge and ‘new creation’ are typical [that is, a type] of the absolute end of the world and the final renewal of the world.

For more info, see 2 Peter 3:1-7 after reading flood account in Genesis.

The above quote was taken from Geerhardus Vos’ The Eschatology of the Old Testament, page 81.

shane lems
hammond wi

Unspoiling Your Children

I’m not sure what to think of this: one of my favorite parenting books isn’t a Christian one.  I do, of course, believe we should raise our children in a distinctly Christian manner, centered around God and his Word.  And of course there are helpful Christian parenting books out there (some unhelpful ones as well!).  But sometimes Christian parents should remember that in God’s common grace, we can learn from those who don’t hold explicitly Christian views.  This book, How to Unspoil Your Child Fast by Dr. R. Bromfield, is a great example.

Even if we may not realize it, most of us who are parents today (myself included) spoil our kids to some extent.  We allow our kids to argue with us, we do too much for our kids, we cater to them too often, we side with our child instead of the teacher or coach, we do their homework for them, we hesitate to say no to our children, and we are overprotective.  Because of these things, our children often think they have entitlements galore (and have a meltdown when you won’t let them watch two movies in one night).  I have four kids – I know how it goes!

Bromfield’s book is a great help in “unspoiling” our kids.  It is short, to the point, clear, and understandable.  I’ve found some parenting books to be overwhelming, giving parents too many things to think of.  This book doesn’t overwhelm.  In fact, some of it echoes common sense and is thus memorable.  I also appreciated Bromfield’s critique of consumerism and narcissism in our society today (which negatively affects our parenting!).

Here is an example of some common sense points Bromfield makes: Parents should give punishments that seriously get our kids’ attention and not back down (because our actions usually speak louder than our words).  Parents should not allow children to argue with them or manipulate them.  Parents should not be afraid to say no more often, and we don’t have to explain ourselves to our children all the time.  We should let our children deal with the consequences of their sin, mistake, or foolishness and not be quick to bail them out.  We shouldn’t buy them so many things or bribe them (if we do this habitually, they will most likely grow up expecting everything to be handed to them).  The list goes on.

Here is some of the wisdom found in this book:

“Do not worry that your firm action [of discipline] will harm your child.  It will not.”

“The more highly valued the thing is that’s taken away [for a punishment], the more powerful the learning effect on the child.  A child, for example, won’t willingly lose too many birthday parties.”  (Note: we’ve found that taking away screen time – ALL screens – is an effective punishment – SPL.)

“If your child mistreats you on Saturday morning, why would you ever give her a ride to the mall that afternoon, no less with a $20 bill?  It is foolhardy and risky to reward rude, abusive, immoral, or other bad behavior.”

“Stop treating your child as royalty whose every want must be met.”

“Giving children too much, today and tomorrow, can deprive them of more precious and profound gifts, such as patience, contentment, consideration, and other skills that help make for a rich, successful, and fulfilled existence.”

Bromfield does talk about love, nurture, forgiveness, and care for children in the book as well.  His view of parenting might be summarized as “firm love” or “parenting with loving authority” or something like that.  Though the book wasn’t a Christian one, several aspects of it did remind me of Christian truth that we should convey to our kids: grace, forgiveness, love, support, and help.  It’s just that we don’t have to spoil our kids and bend over backwards to show them love and grace!  As the Bible teaches, sometimes love is displayed in saying “no” and in firm discipline.

You can get a used copy of this book on Amazon for under $6.  Even if you don’t think your kids are spoiled, I highly recommend this book.  It’ll help you parent your children with firmness and authority, yet with compassion and kindness.

Richard Bromfield, How To Unspoil Your Children Fast (Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2010).

shane lems

No Creeds! (Except What Celebrity Preacher Says)

Democratization of American Christianity  “The study of the religious convictions of self-taught Americans in the early years of the republic reveals how much weight was placed on private judgment and how little on the roles of history, theology, and the collective will of the church.”

So writes Nathan Hatch in his assessment of American religion in his excellent book, The Democratization of American Christianity.  Many of the major weak spots in the American church today were already prevalent in the 19th century (e.g. “no creed but the Bible” was a common sentiment in the 19th century).  Hatch writes,

“In a culture that mounted a frontal assault upon tradition, mediating elites, and institutions, the Bible very easily became, as John W. Nevin complained, ‘a book dropped from the skies for all sorts of men to use in their own way.’ …In the assertion that private judgment should be the ultimate tribunal in religious matters, common people started a revolution.”

Hatch calls this “populist hermeneutics” because it wasn’t necessarily a Christian hermeneutic, a churchly hermeneutic, or a confessional one – it was a hermeneutic of the common individual divorced from the church and the historic Christian tradition.  “Solo Scriptura” had its American origins in the 1800s.

Ironically, this populist hermeneutic was led by “a few strong [religious] figures imposing their own will.”  Nevin, who was critical of this hermeneutic, said this:

“The liberty of the sect consists at last, in thinking its particular notions, shouting its shibboleths and passwords, dancing its religious hornpipes, and reading the Bible only through its theological goggles.  These restrictions, at the same time, are so many wires, that lead back at last into the hands of a few leading spirits, enabling them to wield a true hierarchical despotism over all who are thus brought within their power.”

In other words, the [celebrity] leaders of this “populist hermeneutic” told common Americans to read the Bible as if they were the first ones reading it and forget about the creeds and Christian scholars before them.  On the other hand, the leaders were ultimately dominating the movement and many of the people were following them.  Rather than follow in the footsteps of those Christians in history who went before them, these people were forgetting those who had gone before them and following the current popular [celebrity] leader.

Sadly, this still happens today.

The above quotes were taken from pages 182-3 of The Democratization of American Christianity.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

Cyril on Faith and Grace (Commentary on Luke)

A Commentary upon the Gospel according to S. Luke It’s been a treat to read Cyril of Alexandria’s (d. 444) commentary on the Gospel of Luke.  Some of his insights have been quite helpful; in fact, I’ve leaned on his interpretation more than a few times in my studies and sermons on Luke.  Recently I read Cyril’s exposition of Luke 7:36-50, where a sinful (but forgiven) woman showers Jesus with an extraordinary display of love and honor (much to the disgust of Simon, a Pharisee).  Here are some excerpts from Cyril’s comments:

“All ye people, clap your hands, and praise God with the voice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 47.1).  And what is the cause of the festival? It is that the Savior hath newly constructed for us a way of salvation, untrodden by them of old time. For the law, which the all-wise Moses ordained, was for the reproof of sin, and the condemnation of offenses: but it justified absolutely no one. For the very wise Paul writes, “Whosoever rejected the law of Moses, was put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10.28).  But our Lord Jesus Christ, having removed the curse of the law, and proved the commandment which condemns to be powerless and inoperative, became our merciful High Priest, according to the words of the blessed Paul. For He justifies the wicked by faith, and sets free those held captive by their sins.

For there was no one so far advanced in virtue (spiritual virtue I mean) as to be able to fulfill all that had been commanded, and that blamelessly. But the grace that is by Christ justifieth, because, doing away with the condemnation of the law, it frees us by means of faith.

.And as a pledge and plain example of His grace, He freed that unchaste woman from her many iniquities by saying, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Worthy indeed of God is a declaration such as this! It is a word joined with supreme authority.

Acknowledge Him as God—Him so gentle and loving unto men. Seize upon the way of salvation: flee from the law that killeth: accept the faith which is above the law.*

Here’s how Cyril concludes this section:

Faith then in Christ is found to be the pledge to us of these great blessings: for it is the way that leadeth unto life: that bids us go to the mansions that are above: that raises us to the inheritance of the saints: that makes us members of the kingdom of Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

If you’re looking for a good commentary on Luke, I very much recommend Cyril’s.  Logos has this commentary in digital format (HERE), but it is also on Kindle and in softcover on Amazon (HERE).  It is worth the money for sure – and it’s always good to have an ancient Christian commentary in your library!  Christians who have gone before us have taught the same Christian truth that we teach – and cling to – today.

The above quotes were taken from Cyril of Alexandria, A Commentary upon the Gospel according to S. Luke, trans. R. Payne Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859).

shane lems

The Relationship Between Corporate Worship and Pastoral Care

My colleague at the church I serve has always described pastoral counseling as an extension of pulpit ministry. I think that is a very helpful and important description. But in reading through William H. Willimon’s Worship as Pastoral Care (Abingdon Press, 1979), I’ve seen that the language can be broadened further. While taking care to not lose sight of the theocentric character of corporate worship (i.e., not turning the worship service into a man-focused gathering where meeting human needs takes priority), Willimon suggests that we have lost sight in our shepherding of the “significant by-product” of worship: as the covenant people gather to render praise to God, they also receive his grace through word and sacrament.

Willimon has some insightful thoughts in this regard:

Worship is a major, if recently neglected, aspect of pastoral care. Worship can be enriched by a better awareness of the pastoral dimensions of so-called priestly acts. Just as pastoral care has often neglected the corporate context, so liturgical studies have frequently mired down in historical and textual trivia, archaism, and clericalism, forgetting the pastoral, people dimension in divine worship. In turn, pastoral care can be enriched by more attention to the priestly dimensions of so-called pastoral functions.

A warning note should be sounded here. As I indicated in the last chapter, the first and foremost purpose of our worship is to respond to God. In its most basic sense, worship has no other function than the joyful, ecstatic, abandon that comes when we meet and are met by God. Any attempt to use worship to educate, manipulate, or titillate can be a serious perversion of worship. As I noted earlier, much of our Sunday morning worship, especially in Protestant churches, has been flattened to a purely human enterprise in which people are the chief focus of our liturgy rather than God. While motivation for social action, comforting of grieving people, or education into a broader knowledge of the faith may all be worthy goals, if worship is viewed as only a technique of achieving these goals, worship is being used and thereby abused. God is not to be used for our own purposes, not even for our own good purposes. My thesis is this chapter is not that we should use the liturgy as a new method of pastoral care but that the liturgy itself and a congregation’s experience of divine worship already functions, even if in a secondary way, as pastoral care. The pastoral care that occurs as we are meeting and being met by God in worship is a significant by-product that we have too often overlooked.

In the New Testament, “worship” is a comprehensive category that describes a Christian’s total existence. Liturgy is literally “the work of the people” whether that work occurs inside or outside the temple. We have, in our time, made too neat a distinction between work and worship. Likewise, Christian ministers, if they are doing what they have been called to do, will testify that no clear distinction can or should be made between their work as priest and their work as pastor. When the pastor counsels parishioners in his or her study, beside a hospital bed, or around a kitchen table, the pastor is only doing what he or she does in baptism, at the Lord’s Table, in a sermon or a wedding – guiding the people of God in a liturgy whereby they are enabled to meet God and God can meet them. When the pastor breaks the Communion bread, raises his hands in a benediction, or leads in prayer, the pastor is only doing what he or she does in counseling or other acts of pastoral care – healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling those committed to the pastor’s care.

Pgs. 47-48.

Pastoral counseling is a very important means of pastoral care. But corporate worship is a most necessary component for the care of souls. Not only does pastoral counseling guide God’s people toward fuller worship of him, corporate worship is the primary means through which God strengthens his hurting, grieving, broken and trembling sheep in this their pilgrim journey. Let us never lose sight of this fact in our preaching, public prayer, and leading of worship.

R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

The Christian’s Highest Good

A Sketch of the Christian Catechism (Classic Reformed Theology) In William Ames’ commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, he opens by quoting Psalm 4:6-8, which includes these words: “I will lay down and sleep in peace: because Thou alone, O Jehovah, wilt act so that I will dwell securely.”  He says the Psalmist writes these words so that he may show that his highest good (summum bonum) is located in God’s favor towards him.  Ames goes on to list five lessons we can learn from this text, and from the “comfort” theme of Q/A #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism.  I’ve listed them below (without his comments on each lesson):

1) The highest good ought to be considered and sought above all other things in our entire life.

2) The highest good of people in this life cannot be obtained from [earthly] goods.

3) Our true and highest good consists in the union and communion we have with God.

4) The joy that believers gain from the communion that they have with God overcomes, by its own sweetness, all human delights and happiness.

5) This joy and holy consolation convey a certain security to the consciences of the faithful.

As you may have noticed, this could be a commentary on the first Q/A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism as well!  You’ll have to get the book to see how Ames explains these five lessons in a biblical, edifying, and pastoral manner: William Ames, A Sketch of the Christian Catechism.  I especially appreciate how Ames brings up assurance of salvation in his discussion of our highest good (see #5 above).  Like the Heidelberg Catechism says, “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life!”

shane lems
hammond, wi

Evolutionary Fundamentalists

Darwin on Trial  (This is a re-post from July, 2012)

I’ve heard about Phillip Johnson’s book, Darwin on Trial, but until recently I haven’t read it.  And I’m very glad I finally did. This book does not deal with superficial issues.  It gets right to the heart of the matter by examining the logic, presuppositions, and religious aspects of Darwinism. Darwin on Trial captured my attention immediately in the first chapter when Johnson said that the book was going to explore “whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism” (p. 14).  In other words, is evolution based on fact or faith?  Does Darwinism start with fact or with faith?  Here’s Johnson:

“I do not think that many scientists would be comfortable accepting Darwinism solely as a philosophical principle, without seeking to find at least some empirical evidence that it is true.  But there is an important difference between going to the empirical evidence to test a doubtful theory against some plausible alternative, and going to the evidence to look for confirmation of the only theory that one is willing to tolerate.  We have already seen that distinguished scientists have accepted uncritically the questionable analogy between natural and artificial selection, and they have often been undisturbed by the fallacies of the ‘tautology’ and ‘deductive logic’ formulations.  Such illogic survived and reproduced itself for the same reason that an apparent incompetent species sometimes avoids extinction; there was no effective competition in its ecological niche.” (p. 28-9).

You may have to read that paragraph again to see the depth of critique there.  Johnson later says, along those same lines, “It is one thing to say that there are gaps [in the fossil record], and quite another thing to claim the right to fill the gaps with the evidence required to support one’s theory” (p. 48).  Here’s one more quote to give you yet another angle on Johnson’s point.

“The fossils provide much more discouragement than support for Darwinism when they are examined objectively, but objective examination has rarely been the object of Darwinist paleontology.  The Darwinist approach has consistently been to find some supporting fossil evidence, claim it as proof for ‘evolution,’ and then ignore all the difficulties” (p. 86).

To be sure, Johnson doesn’t just make these claims over and over.  He supports them with examples from scientists and scientific studies.  In reading the book, I learned about the basilosaurus, saltationism, mutations, natural selection, materialism, and so forth. It isn’t for beginners!  Furthermore,  Johnson’s work is well documented, so the curious reader can trace out some of his arguments.  If you have not yet read this book and are interested in this topic, I strongly recommend it.  It isn’t just for Christians; I’d give it to friends or family members who hold to evolution but are willing to learn and be challenged. (If you do get Darwin on Trial, you probably want to get the newest updated edition – from 2010 I believe.)  Though others may disagree, I believe the book shows that Darwinism is indeed a sort of religious fundamentalism.

shane lems
hammond, wi