The Mentality of an Abuser Many of us know people that are manipulative, abusive, and unstable yet put on a good façade and trick many people (even in the church).  Good questions arise: what is the mentality of an abusive person?  How can we spot him?  What type of thinking, speaking, and acting do abusers display?  Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood give us some help in answering these questions (which I’ve summarized/edited for length):

1) The abuser often uses unbelievable exaggerations but makes them believable with remarkable certainty.  For example, in his efforts to convinces us that his wife/victim is to blame and that he is the victim, he may invent ‘facts’ that are simply bizarre.  However, his ability to do so with such conscienceless conviction makes us conclude that it all must be true.  …The way he presents the claim is so convincing.”

2) He distorts reality and rewrites history for his own purposes.  He tells some story and claims it took place, yet you have no recollection of the event; he’s so certain and confident that you doubt your own memory.

3) He is not bothered by inconsistencies in his statements.  Abusers will, without hesitation, present contradictory facts and do so quite convincingly.  Their stories evolve as necessary and if they meet some objecting in us to the logic of what they are saying, they can simply change the storyline.  Again, they speak with such certainty we may be tempted to believe the evolving story.

4) Abusers often act like experts on the subjects they speak about.  When they are questioned further, it becomes evident that their knowledge is actually quite superficial, though they still will not admit it.

5) The abuser uses our own conscience against us.  When he is confronted with the facts about what he did to a victim, he skillfully manipulates what we are saying so that we find ourselves feeling that perhaps we have been too harsh or judgmental of him.  We wonder if we owe him an apology.

6) The abuser plays by double standards.  He will condemn his victim for something, and then, even in the very next sentence, reveal that he does the very same thing (Rom. 2.1).  For example, the abuser sees his wife as a horrible, selfish spendthrift because she spent $50 at the grocery store on food, but his purchase of coke, candy, alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets is quite alright.

7) Abusers are typically immature.  Like a baby, the abuser often screams when his wants are not met, or throws a tantrum when confronted, or displays rank selfishness.

A few others Crippen and Wood list are these: abusers are often into pornography, rarely understand or consider another person’s point of view, rarely show shame, often demand forgiveness while seeking pity, display charm at times, and are able to violate rules and laws without any pain of conscience.  In my own experience, these points are very true (and also can apply to those denying addictions).  This list is worth reading a few times!

As I said earlier, if you’re a pastor, elder, or if you are dealing with an abuser, I recommend this resource: A Cry For Justice by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood.

(This is a re-post from January 2015)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Spurgeon’s Allegorizing

  Charles Spurgeon mentioned to his students that within certain limits it was OK to “spiritualize” a text.  He spent some time explaining this point in Lectures to My Students.  It’s not exactly easy to get a precise definition of what it means to “spiritualize” a text; it has to do with the interpretation of Scripture, which is a huge topic in itself.  However one defines it, there is an overlap between spiritualizing and allegorizing.  In fact, I would argue that Spurgeon’s sermons sometimes contain allegory.

One example is his sermon on Genesis 7:15 which is called “The Parable of the Ark.”  I recently read this sermon in my studies on Genesis 6-9.   While Spurgeon says in the introduction he’s going to give a “parable” on the ark, it’s really an allegory.  Here’s Spurgeon’s allegorical interpretation of the “one window in the ark”:

I have often wondered how all the creatures could see through one window; but I have not wondered what was meant by it, for I think it is easy to point the moral. There is only one window whereby Christians ever get their light. All who come to Christ, and receive salvation by him, are illuminated in one way. That one window of the ark may fitly represent to us the ministry of the Holy Ghost. There is only one light which lighteneth every man who cometh into the world if he be lightened at all. Christ is the light, and it is the Holy Spirit of truth by whom Christ is revealed.

…There was only one window to the ark; and though there were first, second, and third stories to the ark, all saw out of one window; and the little saint, who is in the first story, gets light through the one window of the Spirit; and the saint, who has been brought up to the second story, gets light through the same window; and he, who has been promoted to the loftiest story, has to get light through the same window too. There is no other means of our seeing except through the one window made to the ark, the window of the Holy Spirit. Have we looked through that? Have we seen the clear blue sky above us?

While it is true that the Holy Spirit gives illumination, it is certainly not the meaning of the ark’s window.  The window in the ark was just a window in the ark, not a veiled reference to the Holy Spirit.  In fact, there could have been more than one opening in the ark depending on how one translates the very difficult phrase in Gen. 6:16a.  Some scholars say there may have been an 18 inch (a cubit) opening all around the top.  Whatever the case, Spurgeon clearly missed the meaning of the text.

I’m not saying Spurgeon was a terrible preacher.  He was human and made many mistakes like the rest of us.  And some of his sermons were better than others. I just wanted to point this out to help us avoid the error of allegorizing a text like this.  Αnd it is helpful to remember that even our favorite preachers err and it’s healthy for us to admit that.  This will keep us from emulating their error.  It will also keep us from idolizing our favorite preachers.  And it reminds us that God can [thankfully!] accomplish his purposes through fallible preachers and imperfect sermons.

The above quote by Spurgeon is found in Spurgeon, C. H. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Vol. 53. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907, p. 270.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Hebrew Term for “The Flood” (TWOT)

 In the famous story of Noah, his family, and the ark, the Hebrew term for flood is not a regular word or phrase for “a lot of water.”  There are other words in the OT that mean “a lot of water” (e.g. מַיִם – “waters”) and there are phrases that mean “a lot of water” (e.g. bursting flood in 1 Chr. 14:11 or mass of waters in Job 22:11).  But the word for “flood” in Genesis 6-11 is not a normal word for “a lot of water.”  The term is “mabbul” (מַבּוּל) and it isn’t overly easy to translate because it’s only used in the story of the flood and one other time in the OT.  Of course, the flood involved a lot of water, as Genesis 6-11 clearly notes. But this word sticks out a bit; it throws some mystery into the flood story.  Here’s the helpful entry in the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) for this word “mabbul” (flood/deluge):

A technical term reserved for the watery catastrophe which God brought on the earth during the days of Noah. That event was so well known that mabbûl usually occurs with the definite article (except in Gen 9:11, 15). mabbûl is used only once outside Gen 7–11. Psalm 29:10 says that “the Lord sits upon the flood, indeed, the Lord is enthroned king forever.” Instead of Baal, the god of storm and thunder who according to the Ugaritic myths defeated yam the sea god, the Lord’s voice is heard in the thunder, and it is he who reigns over the destructive forces of nature, in this case the storm so beautifully described in Ps 29.

All attempted etymologies for this word have failed because of linguistic difficulties. A few of the suggestions have been: the Akkadian root nbl “to destroy,” Akkadian abūbu from the alleged wabūbu “cyclone,” Akkadian bubbulu, biblu, bibbulu “inundation,” which is the best suggestion yet. But it also fails since the term is not used in any of the Akkadian flood stories. Hebrew ybl “to flow, stream” or nbl “waterskin” have also been suggested. But these suggestions are not linguistically supported and appear to be parents to the unwarranted thought that mabbûl refers to a “heavenly ocean” or a “heavenly store of water in jars.”

While God himself brought the waters of the flood on the earth because of man’s sin (Gen 6:17; 7:6), afterward he covenanted never again to destroy the earth with water (Gen 9:11, 15). Thus God’s own can be certain that the earth will endure until the desired eschaton comes.

TWOT, mabbul #1142.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

The Aim of God’s Wisdom (VanMastricht)

Theoretical-Practical Theology Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God Paul’s well-known doxology in Romans 11 mentions the deep (βάθος) wisdom of God (σοφίας…θεοῦ).  In his excellent discussion of God’s wisdom, Peter Van Mastricht (d. 1706) listed eight “aims” of God’s wisdom that Scripture teaches.

Van Mastricth wrote that the wisdom of God is chiefly occupied and concerned…

  1. With the counsels, decrees, predestination, election, and reprobation of God, to which points the text’s exclamation, ‘O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom…!”
  2. With the works of creation, conservation, and governance, concerning which the psalmist says, “In wisdom you made them all” (Ps. 104:24; 136:5.
  3. Especially with the formation of man, the microcosm [little cosmos] (Ps. 139:14-15).
  4. With the uniting and ordering of creatures so different from each other, because of which he is called the God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33), who does all things in their own time and measure (Ecc. 3:11).
  5. Especially in the marvelous work of redemption through the Son and Holy Spirit, because of which the Savior is not only named the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24), but also called the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10) into which even angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).
  6. In the mysteries of the Christian faith, which the apostle calls the wisdom of God, distinguished from the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 2:6).
  7. In the gathering and defending of his church against the most cunning attacks of so many and such great enemies, whom by his wisdom he time and again catches in their own scheming (Ps. 59:12; 10:2).
  8. In his most wise direction and governance particular to individual believers.

In other words, God’s wisdom is not an impractical dogma for us to dissect.  Wisdom is an attribute of God that has to do with his decree(s).  Furthermore, God’s wisdom is also evident in creation, providence, salvation, and our own preservation.  And this all brings him glory.  Therefore, when we think about the depth of God’s wisdom, it makes us praise and adore him!

The above very slightly edited quote is found in Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, vol. 2, p. 262-3.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002


Figures of Speech in the Bible (Bullinger)

 The text of Scripture, like other texts and writings, contains many figures of speech.  The Bible is not a textbook or manual that uses wooden propositions that are always literal and bland.  When you read recipes or the instructions for your daughter’s new bike, you’re not going to find many figures of speech.  You’ll just get plain words that give bare information you need to finish a task.

Scripture, however, is full of all different kinds of writing, speech, reports, emotions, commands, propositions, explanations, stories, and so forth.  When reading the Bible it’s good to remember that it’s not a dry textbook or straightforward instruction manual!  I’ve been going through one resource that is meant to help Bible readers read the Bible better: Figures of Speech Used in the Bible by E. W. Bullinger.  Although this book is just over one hundred years old, it is a helpful tool for learning about the different figures of speech in Scripture.  This resource will help the reader better interpret Scripture and it’ll help those who translate Scripture to think about the figures of speech in translation.

I have to admit Figures of Speech isn’t the easiest book to read.  It is somewhat dated and it does contain many linguistic terms that are new to me. But for the most part, it’s not too tough to understand what Bullinger is getting at.  The book contains three main sections: 1) Figures of speech that involve the omission of words, 2) Figures of speech that involve the addition of words, and 3) Figures of speech that involve the change of words.  There are a few appendices that talk about things like the use of the genitive case and Hebrew homonyms, for two examples.  At the end of the book, there are helpful indexes so you can look up words, Scripture citations, and subjects.

Here are a few examples of the figures of speech Bullinger explains:

Epizeuxis: or, Duplication – The Repetition of the Same Word in the Same Sense.  When the word is repeated in close and immediate succession, no other word or words coming between, it is called GEMINATIO, pronounced Gem-i-nā´-tio, which means a doubling, duplication, a re-doubling.  …It is a common and powerful way of emphasizing a particular word, by thus marking it and calling attention to it.  Examples: Gen. 6:17 – and behold, I, even I, bring a flood of waters upon the earth.  Gen. 7:19 “And the waters prevailed exceedingly.” Here, as in other passages, the doubled adverb is used for a superlative. מְאֹד מְאֹד (meōd, meōd), greatly, greatly. 

Pleonasm; or, Redundancy   When more Words are used than the Grammar requires –    Ple´-o-nasm. Greek, πλεονασμός (pleonasmos): from πλέονάζειν (pleonazein), to be more than enough. …The figure is so called when there appears to be a redundancy of words in a sentence; and the sense is grammatically complete without them. … But this redundancy is only apparent. These words are not really superfluous when used by the Holy Spirit, nor are they idle or useless.  …Gen. 1:2.—“And darkness was upon the faces of the deep,” i.e., upon the deep. But how much more forcible and emphatic the expression becomes by the pleonasm. … Gen. 11:8.—“So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth:” i.e., all over the earth.

Anyway, it’s hard to give great examples that are properly formatted here on the blog.  Bullinger goes into much detail for every figure of speech and gives tons of examples from Scripture of the figure of speech he’s discussing.  If you’re interested, I suggest going online and looking through some pages of the book.  I don’t agree with all of Bullinger’s interpretations and divisions/descriptions, but the book is for sure helpful in getting the student of Scripture to think about the figures of speech in the Bible.  It’ll help us read the Word better for sure.

Here’s the Amazon link to the hardcover or paperback of Bullinger’s Figures of Speech and here’s the Logos edition.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

The Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition (UBS5) – A Short Review

The UBS Greek New Testament, Reader's Edition with  Textual Notes--hardcover  -     By: Barclay M. Newman, Florian Voss
 I’ve had my Greek New Testament (UBS 4th Revised Edition) since 2004 when I was in seminary.  It’s been my main NT Greek Bible ever since.  Although I had to tape the spine, it’s held together pretty well. I typically try to keep the same Bibles as long as possible, but recently I purchased the 5th Revised Edition of the UBS Greek New Testament – reader’s edition.  I’ll still use my older Greek Bible for sure, but I like this updated reader’s edition a lot and I see myself using it quite a bit.

Here are some reasons I like it:

  • It’s very solid – the pages are slightly thicker than pages in other Bibles and the hardcover is pretty sturdy.  The page layout is very nice and I like wider margins for notes.
  • There’s a running Greek dictionary on the bottom of each page that contains the parsing and definition of Greek words used less than 30 times in the NT.  Since there are some pretty rare and tough vocab words in the NT, it’s nice to have them handy at the bottom of the page.  I don’t consider it to be cheating when having to look up a rare vocab word.
  • Some of the major text variants are noted.  Usually in a “reader’s Bible,” the critical notes are left out – but it is nice to have some major text variants listed.
  • There’s a dictionary in the back of this Greek NT of words that appear more than 30 times in the NT.  This means that between the running dictionary on each page and the dictionary in the back of the book, the reader has a complete dictionary of all the NT words.  NOTE: these dictionaries only give basic word glosses/meanings and are not meant to be exhaustive dictionaries for exegetical use.

Here are a few pictures in case you’re interested (apologies if the formatting is crazy):


All in all, I very much recommend this Greek NT – Reader’s Edition (UBS 5 – Revised Edition).  It’s reasonably priced (under $40 right now) and is a great tool for Greek students.  The use of this Greek NT will certainly help people learn how to better read the NT in the original language.  Five stars for sure!

The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (UBS 5th Revised Edition).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

The Seven Adverbs of Pastoral Duty (DPW)

 (This is a re-post from June 2012)

Aside from writing the magnificent confession and catechisms, the Westminster divines also wrote a directory for public worship (DPW) which was approved in 1645.  One section of this directory that has always stuck out for me is where it explains the duties of the pastor in simple, clear, biblical terms.  Here are the seven points – which I’ve summarized and edited.

“The servant of Christ is to perform his ministry…”

1) Painstakingly, not doing the work of the Lord negligently.

2) Plainly, so that the uneducated may understand – delivering the truth not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect; not using unknown languages, strange phrases, and rhythmic sounds or words; citing non-biblical texts and authors sparingly, even if they are so elegant.

3) Faithfully, looking to the honor of Christ and the conversion, edification, and salvation of the people; not seeking his own gain or glory; keeping nothing back which promotes these holy ends; not showing favoritism but pointing out the sins both of the lowly and the mighty.

4) Wisely, explaining all doctrine, encouragement, and rebuke in a manner that is clear; respecting the situation of the congregation, not mixing his own intense enthusaism for something or bitterness.

5) Seriously, in a manner fitting for God’s Word, avoiding all gestures, expressions, and words that may lead people to despise the ministry.

6) Lovingly, so that the people may see and know that he genuinely desires to do them good.

7) Truthfully, as taught by God’s Word and persuaded in his own heart that it is true; publicly and privately living according to the truth in order to be a godly example to the flock; watching over his own life and doctrine as well as that of the congregation, with the goal that the truth of God be preserved, souls converted, and that he himself may receive blessing from his labors in this life and in the one to come.

Allow me a few comments on these seven adverbs describing the ministry. First, these seven points are based on Scripture.  They also lead the pastor and his congregation back to Scripture.  Second, these words describe the pastor as a servant – a servant of Christ primarily but also his church.  This means that neither culture, desire for popularity, personal preferences, nor “itching ears” drive the pastoral ministry.  Third, these seven points fight against the current notion that a successful pastor is one who is likable, trendy, “twitterable,” and amusing.  In other words, they call the pastor to Christian maturity, piety, and wisdom and away from Western culture’s fixation on youth, looks, fame, and entertainment.

A pastor’s duty and goal, therefore, is to serve Christ by faithfully explaining his Word (law and gospel) to his people – for their Christian good and his glory.  Perhaps we can apply John 3:30 to the pastoral ministry: he must increase, but I must decrease.

By the way, you can find this part of the DPW in the appendix of Westminster Confession of Faith (but I’m sure it’s also online and in other books).  I strongly encourage pastors to read it!

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015